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On the 1st of June 1994, after two years of significant re-design and restoration, the Monte-Cristo Estates in Port Marly, was re-opened to the public. The re-inauguration of Alexandre Dumas property highlighted its 150th anniversary : it was in 1844 that Dumas acquired the Montferrands hillock which would be the site of his « Renaissance castle, moated writers studio and English park ». Of his enchanting and intriguing Estates, Dumas asserted, « Here I own a tiny earthly paradise »; indeed, Monte-Cristo is much more than just an other « writers home ». Alain Decaux, member of the Académie Française and former President of the Society of Friends of Alexandre Dumas, has justifiably echoed Dumas romantic claim with his own : « Monte-Cristo is a dream come true ! »
A story-book castle
In 1846, Alexandre Dumas undertook the construction of his little Renaissance château. He had the sculpted facades of Monte-Cristo display framed portraits of his favorites writers, the artistic merit of which is owed to Pradier and other sculptors of great fame. Dumas warm motto inscribed over the entrance still maintains « I love those who love me ».
The special craftsmen who accompanied the writer home from a voyage to Tunisia are credited with the beautiful Moorish salon. And outside in the park, charming grottoes and rose-bushes set off the miniature château of If, the writers studio.
Dumas Estate also boasted a ménagerie, alive with both familiar, local animals as well as more rare species. Several monkeys and a vulture were among the squawking souvenirs from faraway voyages. Two entrance-pavilions and a set of servants quarters on the other side of the road completed the Estates. In sum, Alexandre Dumas « earthly paradise » cost him some 200.000 nineteenth-century francs.
By the inauguration of Monte-Cristo in July 1847, Dumas was heavily in debt and suffering increased pressure from his creditors. 1848 saw him forced to sell all his furniture, and hardly a year later, Dumas had to give up the entirety of the property he so loved.
At this time, Monte-Cristo entered a long period of negligence during which it changed hands several times. In 1969, the property was scheduled for demolition to make way for modern apartment complexes.
The renaissance of Monte-Cristo
In 1972, the towns of Port-Marly, Marly-le-Roi and Le Pecq re-grouped in an inter-community Union, bought the property and saved Monte-Cristo from demolition. The Union benefited greatly from the help and influence of The Friends of Alexandre Dumas Society, and especially from the groups ardent President, Alain Decaux.
The Renaissance château, If and the park were at this point officially classified as Historical Monuments. Although this rescued the Estate in name, however, the enormity of the task which remained was staggering : the entire property required resuscitation.
In 1977, the inter-community Union engaged in the first of many restorations, with the backing of the State, the Region, the Province and with the ever steadfast Friends of Alexandre Dumas. And by 1983, the Estate was ready to be opened to the public for guided tours. It enjoyed a great success.
Two years later, H.M. Hassan II, King of Morocco, generously financed a large scale interior decoration of Dumas property. H.M. Hassan II was, in fact, responsible for bringing in Moroccan craftsmen to restore the famous Moorish Salon. The guided tours of Monte-Cristo became increasingly more popular.
As Monte-Cristo enters its second prime
The 1990 decision to temporarily close the château allowed for major restoration, landscaping and work on public access. Since June 1994, visitors to Dumas Estate can discover a completely transformed Monte-Cristo.
The château façades have been totally restored so that Pradiers sculpted motifs can finally be appreciated. The interior has been entirely redone, with the publics comfort and ease foremost in mind. A second staircase has been installed to safely accomodate visitors. A library with a research centre graces the third floor.
The « English Park » has been totally re-landscaped. A 100 spot parking-lot, located along the Montferrand hillside, discreetly facilitates access to the grounds. A reception-pavilion has been erected at the Estate entrance for ticket sales, brochures, books and souvenirs. The grottoes and the rock-work which Dumas so treasured have been re-constructed. Moreover, lighting and signs have been improved to better assist visitors along their discovery of Monte-Cristo.
Any necessary modernisation of Monte-Cristo for the publics accomodation and safety has been carefully and faithfully undertaken. The integrity and character of Dumas original residence remains intact. Its charm and romance, needless to say, are as appealing as ever.
|© Société des Amis d'Alexandre Dumas
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