The Fascinating House That Went Unopened For 100 Years

“Pulvis et umbra sumus.” [We are but dust and shadow.] —Horace

In A Nutshell

A peculiar Frenchman named Louis Mantin stipulated in his will that his mansion should be locked and remain unopened until 100 years after his 1905 death. His wish was granted, and it wasn’t until October 2010 that the house was opened to the public. Although quite musty and in need of extensive maintenance, the building served as a pristine time capsule of turn-of-the-century France.

The Whole Bushel

Everyone struggles with mortality in different ways. Frenchman Louis Mantin died in 1905 at the age of 54, unmarried and childless. With no offspring to carry on his name or memory but desiring a way to live on, he requested that the house be opened to the public as a museum. He stipulated that if 100 years went by without anyone fulfilling his wish, the house would be up for grabs from his closest living relative.

The house went largely forgotten for years. Its doors locked and windows shuttered, the townspeople forgot about its past and whispered legends about skeletons and spooks. Somehow, the house was spared from vandals, and no one entered the mysterious mansion. Even the Germans left it alone during their occupation in World War II.

When the doors were finally unlocked, onlookers got to see what is perhaps the largest time capsule on record. The house was exactly as it was when Mantin died—but with no heat or upkeep for all those years, the interior was in pretty rough shape. There was mold, rot, and hundreds of insects. As specialists began to evict the bugs and wipe away the grime, they discovered a treasure trove of antiques and curiosities.

Decorations included lush tapestries, ornately carved wood, stained glass, and gilded leather-lined walls. In addition to a collection of artwork including paintings and sculptures, Mantin also had a personal museum filled with Egyptian relics, flint fossils, antique oil lamps, and curiosities such as taxidermied animals, including two stuffed frogs engaged in a sword fight.

While the house now stands as a rich piece of history, it was very modern during Mantin’s life. The mansion was outfitted with a modern bathroom with flushing toilet, electric light, and heated floors. There was even a room dedicated to his married mistress. The walls were clothed in pink wallpaper and a painting of a winking woman hung over the fireplace, alluding to their illicit 20-year affair.

After a four-year, multi-million-dollar renovation, the mansion was restored to its former splendor, and the house is now open to the public.

Show Me The Proof

CNN: Time-warp mansion opens its doors after century in the dark
BBC News: The French house untouched for 100 years
Telegraph: Mansion left for 100 years reopens as time-capsule museum
Photo credit: Silex