French Chateau Demolished ‘By Mistake’ During Renovation

A Polish millionaire says his workers accidentally destroyed the 18th century chateau he was renovating, but villagers in the vineyard town of Yvrac smell a rat.

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Image: the south facade of the Chateau de Bellevue, completely bulldozed "by mistake."
Mairie d'Yvrac/AP

This 2-pic undated combo image provided by the Yvrac town hall Thursday, Dec.6, 2012 shows the south facade of the Chateau de Bellevue, completely bulldozed "by mistake."

Don’t believe the ads on cable TV: there is no such thing as a hassle-free 18th century chateau renovation.

Just ask town officials in the town of Yvrac, in southwest France. They’re still infuriated after discovering that work crews hired to restore the local chateau Bellevue instead demolished  the 18th century gem “by mistake”. Authorities in the village, nestled among picturesque vineyards some seven miles outside of Bordeaux, realized the regal manor had been unexpectedly razed in less than two days in late November. In fact, the only structure still standing is apparently one of the detached staff quarters — the building that was supposed to be leveled instead of the main house, which was undergoing renovation. Sorting out the mix up has been slowed by the fact the construction company and crew carrying out the work are Polish, and the owner is a Warsaw-based Russian millionaire.

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The good folk of Yvrac (all 2,500 of them) are not amused—and some suspect the Keystone Cops-like construction excuse is cover for the intentional demolition of the 140,000 square-foot mansion, a move that local authorities never would have permitted. Destroying the existing structure to build a new, modern replacement would cost far less than restoring the original—and suspicious locals note the curious inquiries about the depth of the chateau’s foundations that builders made while applying for a structural modification permit.

Owner Dmitry Stroskin—who bought the Bellevue in 2011—denies those allegations, and points out he’s the primary victim — losing a manse that despite its deteriorating condition was ripe for restoration. As the local uproar mounted, Stroskin promised Yvrac officials he’d completely rebuild the chateau — literally, good as new — and has reportedly signed a nearly $2 million contract with local quarries and masons to reconstruct its walls in their original form. Minus a couple hundred years of history, of course.

Meanwhile, Yvrac mayor Claude Carty has filed papers accusing Stroskin’s workers of violating the original construction permit, and left it with state prosecutors for possible legal action. But there’s no use closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, and given the unsalvageable state of the 18th century rubble piled up at 53 avenue de la Chapelle, pointing fingers at this point seems similarly futile.

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