Sunday, 22 September 2013

Chateau Lauratet

During the Heritage Open Days 2013 (Journées du Patrimoine) we visited Chateau Lauratet, in Reunion's capital, Saint Denis.

Chateau Lauratet, Saint Denis

I had often noticed this elegant period building located at number 44, rue Alexis de Villeneuve, and was glad to be able to visit it at last.

looking back over the front garden from the house terrace

It's currently home to the Chambre Régionale des Comptes de la Réunion (the Regional Audit Chamber for Reunion), and while most of the Chamber's offices are located in a modern building built in 1987 (just visible to the right in the top photo), the Creole house holds the Chamber President's offices and personal living quarters, surrounded by 2600m2 of garden.

Audit Chamber display inside Chateau Lauratet

On 8th February 1787 Jean-Baptiste Lecolier sold Jean-Joseph Pajot a large piece of land with a house. Pajot lived here with his wife Ursule Lagourgue and their nine children. The main part of the house, including the three French windows at the front, date from this period. The property remained in the Pajot family until 1861, and eventually in 1876 it was acquired by Anaïs Lauratet, wife of a prosperous merchant.

inside the house

The Lauratet couple modernised the house, taking their inspiration from an architectural style introduced to the island in the 1840s and visible at what is now the Leon Dierx Museum in the nearby Rue de Paris (built 1842-1843), and Chateau Morange, a larger but similar building somewhat further away (built 1853-1860). The Lauratets had the imposing entrance built as well as the unique wrought-iron gate, and added balustrades and other decorative elements such as the roof-top decorative Medici vases which are also unique to Chateau Lauratet. The architect was Mr Chatel, who came to Reunion to build Saint Denis' Town Hall, and it is said that the work was carried out by labourers who had come to Reunion to build the railway.

back of the house

Anaïs Lauratet died in the house in 1896, and in 1910 it was put up for sale. In 1917 it was sold to Augustine Kerveguen (née Villèle), before being sold in 1926 to the Cazal family, local printers, who bequeathed it to the nation on October 23rd 1984. It was then assigned to the Regional Audit Chamber.

custard apples growing in the garden

The garden holds several magnificent trees, including a strawberry guava (goyavier) with an unusually large trunk and a custard apple tree.

strawberry guava with an unusually large trunk

cocoa fruit on a tree in the garden

Unless you're in Saint Denis during the annual Heritage Open Days, held every September, you may not be able to visit Chateau Lauratet, but at least now you'll know what the building is and a little bit about its history!

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