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15 Years of Louis XV in Jurassic Park !

Chers Amis de L’Ecole du Bon Goût,  Bonjour et Bravo!! This week marks the 15th year anniversaire of the completion of my tower follie at Lake Martin!!

        It has been a great joy to live in such an unusual home set in an equally unusual setting. Being in a primordial landscape, on the banks of Lake Martin, which in turn is surrounded by 10,000 acres of the Nature Conservancy, Mother Nature’s wonders abound at every glance. With ten 350 year old, 100 foot tall live oak trees on my property alone, hundreds of handsome alligators in and around the lake, cohabitating symbiotically with tens of thousands of colorfully plumed wading birds (90+ species in all) plus rabbits, deer, raccoons and on and on…..there is “never a dull moment” living in this veritable “Jurassic Park”!

        The construction of the home itself was a complex 3 year endeavor involving a first year of planning, engineering studies (The concrete foundation piles go 26 feet into the earth and contain 15 truck loads of concrete!), acquisition of many antique building materials in France, judicious tree removal, road building, the laying of underground utilities from 1000 feet away+++++. Finally then contractor extraordinaire, Mr. Jim Armentor and his ten men working five days a week for 22 months built the tower.  I worked every weekend with 2 men of my staff.   We had a complete outer shell of 60 foot tall scaffolding, with an Osha approved exterior staircase to service it, a 40 foot tall crane every day and a really big crane 6 times during the project.  Jim’s steady hand attending to every detail and his very talented team of dedicated men made this very unusual project come to fruition without me, the architect and the owner, totally freaking out with the numerous “surprises” along the way!

        One example of the project’s many eccentricities is that it was to be surrounded by a masonry moat.  Who do you consult today to find out how to build a moat????  This problem was solved when I happened on the restoration of the ancient moat at the Château Sully in Bourgogne, France. We just used those techniques to build the entirely new moat.

        The architectural style and details of the tower are Régence/Louis XV circa 1735. Likewise most of the furnishings and decorative objects inside are also, with a few “older” Louis XIII and Louis XIV pieces mixed in as would have been the case in most “new” homes of the early 18th century in France.

        What exactly are the classic meanings of the terms “follie” or “pavilion”??

        To quote M. Charles Ryskamp, Director of The Frick Collection, NYC, regarding 18th century French “follies”: “Hours of idleness, the pursuit of pleasure and love by persons royal, noble, or other very rich, have in past centuries frequently resulted in astonishing buildings created for casual amusements. In France, these edifices are exemplified by a few surviving garden follies, and evoked in the letters and journals of those who built or visited such pavilions…”

        To quote M. Bernd H. Dams, author of “Pleasure Pavilions and Follies in the Gardens of the Ancient Regime”, on the subject:  “Follies and pavilions are able to charm us effortlessly, for it is all they were ever meant to do. They are one of life’s great and simple pleasures, and like the faintly anachronistic word “charm” itself they suggest a better, more refined and carefree world that probably never was.”

        True to the classic formula of an eighteenth century French “follie”, the Pavilion de Lac Martin exhibits sophisticated chateau architectural vocabulary and proportions, and it is lighted on all four sides by huge French doors, making it a “lantern”.   It is set in a contrasting, exotic and primordial landscape.  The realistic appearance of this replica of a circa 1735 lantern pavilion, was made possible by employing in its construction, French eighteenth century doors, “boiserie” wall paneling, oak “parquet de Versailles” and  hand made terracotta tile flooring, hand forged iron hardware, limestone and marble mantles, antique wood ceilings of “plafond à la française” design, as well as antique wavy glass in the windows.

        Because of the physically elevated form of tower as well as the numerous large glazed doors throughout, the views into the marvels of the adjacent landscape and lake can be more fully appreciated.

        Having the “Bon Goût” of Mother Nature’s treasures as well as the “Bon Goût” of the architecture and furnishings of early 18th Century France joined together in one living environment has been a continuous joy for the last 15 years for which I am very grateful!

Très cordialement,  Robert E. Smith

“Visions, as you know, have always been my pastures; and so far from growing old enough to quarrel with their emptiness, I almost think there is no wisdom comparable to that of exchanging what is called the realities of life for dreams. One holds fast and sure to what is Past. The dead have exhausted their power of decieving.”

Walpole to Montagu written from Paris in 1767

Photo by Dan Womack
Photo by Dan Womack

Reference books on Follies and Pavilions

If you would like to build your own follie, visit the shop or the website below and see all of the antique French building materials and furnishings available for your project.

Visit the Au Vieux Paris Antiques homepage (click here)
Browse a sampling of the merchandise available (click here)
Mes amities,
Robert E. Smith   (337) 332-2852

3 thoughts on “15 Years of Louis XV in Jurassic Park !

  1. Nous saluons le retour. Votre maison est extraordinaire mais pas mon truc. Merci. CEC

  2. I love your follie. Who doesn't?

  3. Just wonderful, Robert! We greatly enjoyed learning about your design concept and history, the Herculean task it was to build it, and we're amazed by the exquisite furnishings! Truly a work of art!

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