The strangers who clubbed together to save a crumbling French chateau
It’s a concept familiar to us here in New Zealand – see something under threat, crowdsource some funds, save it. After all, we bought a beach once.
Now in France, a similar concept has helped a crumbling chateau from being demolished.
More than 9000 strangers from 45 different countries have clubbed together to raise the €500,000 ($857,491) needed to save La Mothe-Chandeniers from the bulldozers.
In return, they become the new owners of the 2000-hectare site situated 322 kilometres miles south of Paris in the Poitou-Charentes region.
The potential buyers were asked to contribute at least €50 each – and for an extra euro they could become a shareholder in the company that will run the restoration.
The campaign was a massive success, smashing through the €500,000 mark in just 40 days.
So what have they bought?
Well a derelict ruin with trees growing in the centre, roofs caved in, and a crumbling edifice. A “handyman’s dream” as they say in real estate terms.
But look beyond that – among the turrets and ornate features is a romantic chateau surrounded by a moat from a world gone by.
The oldest parts were established in the 13th century by the Bauçay family. Over the centuries it was periodically ransacked and it wasn’t until 1809 when a rich Parisian businessman, François Hennecart, restored the building and retained much of the original medieval building.
A massive reconstruction took place in 1870 by the flamboyant Baron Edgard Lejeune, who threw lavish parties in the chateau.
But in 1932 a devastating fire ravaged the building. It limped from owner to owner until being acquired in 1981 by Marc Deyemer. Unfortunately, he couldn’t restore it to its former glory.
“I bought the chateau 32 years ago. I killed myself for two years trying to save it with preservation works, but I was sickened when my projects were torpedoed by certain people. I’m tempted to declare it a ruin so it can be destroyed,” Deyemer said five years ago, reports The Guardian.
But with possible demolition waiting around the corner, the locals sprang into life and asked a private company who specialises in historic buildings to step in.
Called Dartagnans it got to work rustling up support for the project.
Founder Romain Delaume said the crowdfunding project has been an overwhelming success.
“The idea is not just about raising the money, but getting as many people as possible to participate in saving this magical, fairytale place,” Delaume told The Guardian. “The more the merrier.”
It is hoped the chateau will open to the public soon with a goal to reach 50,000 visitors by 2021 and 70,000 by 2022.
They are still looking at raising more money for the project as another €500,000 is needed for essential work to make the building safe.
The project’s website can be found here.