Friday, March 4, 2011

Mysterious French mansion frozen in time for 100yrs, opens it's doors

In Moulins, France sits a lone house lurking in the shadow of the town's cathedral. An eccentric bachelor by the name of Louis Mantin who was obsessed with death and the passing of time, wrote in his will that the house, known as Maison Mantin, was to open as a museum a century after his death. He died 6 months later in 1905. "He wanted the house to remain unchanged , like a time-capsule for future generations, so they would know how a bourgeois gentleman lived at the turn of the 20th Century" Maud Leyoudec, assistant curator of Maison Mantin told CNN.

Surviving two world wars including a German occupation in the 1940's, the townsfolk of Moulins respected the will and left the Mansion's doors closed for 100 years. Rumours circulated that there were skeletons in side and it became part of the town's lore.

When a house remains untouched for long periods of time, they tend to become decrepit and fall apart. The Maison Mantin was no exception. Mantin's great-niece opened it in 2005, highlighting the urgent need for restoration. "There was woodworm and damp caused by the house not being heated, and many of the elaborate wall coverings were torn," Leyoudec said, "There were insects everywhere in the house - it was really awful."

A team of 30 specialists set to work on the restoration which took over 4 years and cost nearly $5 million. The Mansion, reopened as a museum in October 2010 and displayed many modern comforts for the time including electric lighting, flushing toilets and under-floor heating. It also contained some unique artifacts such as two frogs sword-fighting and a stuffed puffer fish. It is thought that the Maison Mantin is a unique entity, having been the only home of its kind to have been deliberately left in its original state for 100 years - a snapshot of early 20th century life.

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