Desert de Retz
The Desert de Retz is an 18th Century landscape or folly garden near the town of Chambourcy, 20 km west of Paris. It was created by Monsieur de Monville, a wealthy aristocrat who entertained European royalty as well as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin amid exotic plants and trees imported from around the world. The follies included an ice house in the form of a pyramid, an Egyptian obelisk, and a temple to the Greek god Pan. There was also a Chinese house, a Tartar tent, and a remarkable home in the form of a broken column. The Column House is a false ruin 50 ft high in the shape of a truncated section of a gigantic Tuscan column with a ground floor and 3 upper stories reached by a spiral staircase. It has passed through the hands of a number of owners, suffered years of neglect, and many efforts to restore it. We were privileged to visit the Desert with Ronald Kenyon, an American who has developed a wonderful web site at desertderetz.info dedicated to collecting information about this remarkable garden and the various efforts to restore it and open it to public visits.
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