Villa du Parc - your Chateau away from home in Cannes

History of Villa du Parc, the historic gardens and Villa Vallombrosa.

The Chateau Villa du Parc is a part of an historic area in Cannes. This is where Cannes, as we see it today, was born.

Villa du Parc is located in a 35 000 m2 large historic park. This is Parc Vallombrosa. Surrounding Villa du Parc you will find Villa Vallombrosa, Villa Rotschild and Villa Belle-Vue, all of which are protected old historic buildings.

Below one can see Palais Vallombrosa with the three towers just in front of the sailing boat around 1870.

The history of Villa du Parc is very integrated with the history of Vallombrosa. Palais Vallombrosa was build around 1850 and Villa du Parc was built 10-15 years later. Among others it had the same owner, Martin Ellmer, during the period 1896 until 1934.

The following is a very short overview of the history of the area:

60 BC: The Roman army was posted here.
March 25th, 1846: Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield buys the Riou Quartier from Messiuers Rey.
March 30th, 1846: Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield buys more property from Ardisson.
October 13th, 1849: Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield buys property from Carbonel.
May 10th, 1850: Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield buys even more property from Ardisson.
March 10th, 1851: Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield buys property from Sardou. Woolfield is now ready to build.
1852-1856: The building period of Chateau Vallombrosa, or Chateau Riou (or Chateau des Tours) as it was called initially. It originally consisted of 9 towers in Tudor style. It was built by Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfield for Lord Londesborough. The architect was Thomas Smith and the entrepreneur Obadiah Pulham. Both british. It was said that the Chateau was the little Windsor. The view was at that time open to the Alps in the back, the Esterel to the West, Cannes to the East and the beaches to the South.

When the Chateau was nearly completed the gardens were made by the gardener John Taylor.

Gardener John Taylor who later became a central person in Cannes.

Old Vallombrosa
1856: The Chateau Riou was called Castel Sainte-Ursule or Villa Sainte-Ursule from this year.
October 28th, 1859: Lord Londesborough sells the Chateau Riou to his nephew Marquis Francis-Nathaniel de Conyngham. Londesborough is represented by Woolfield for the sale. Conyngham is represented by the knight James de Colquhoun. The amoung paid was 162 500 Francs. The sale was signed in the presence of Maitre Borniol at the Villa Victoria which was the residence of Woolfield.
April 25th, 1861: Marquis de Conyngham sold the Chateau for 180 000 F to Richard Manca Amat, - Duc de Vallombrosa, and his wife born Genevieve de Perusse des Cars. He built a chapel, decorated the hall and extended the gardens. The Duc de Vallombrosa decided to leave the aristocratic life in Paris and became the locomotive in the Cannes social life.

This sale was also signed at the Villa Victoria in the presence of Maitre Borniol.

1861: The name changed to Chateau Vallombrosa from this point in time.
1870: Palais de Vallombrosa was used as a hospital for the wounded during the French-Germanic war.
1879: From the book: Wintering in the Riviera : with notes of travel in Italy and France and practical hint to travellers / by William Miller,...
Auteur : Miller, William
Editeur : Longmans (London)
Date: 1879

1884: Villa du Parc and the Palais de Vallombrosa shown on an official map of 1884.
October 17th 1886: Duchesse de Vallombrosa dies at her chateau d'Abondant in Eure-et-Loire. Duc de Vallombrosa decided to leave Cannes for Paris after his wife died.

Duchesse de Vallombrosa
November 19th 1887: Duc de Vallombrosa decided to rent out the Chateau for the winter. On this day prince and princess Berthier de Wagram came to the Chateau as the renters for the winter.
May 6th, 1890: Palais de Vallombrosa was purchased by the German hotellier Henri-Martin Ellmer for 410 000 F. 30 000 F for the furniture.

He started to extend the buildings using architect Louis Vianey of Cannes. The buildings facade was extended to a length of more than 150 meters and 6 floors were installed. For a long time this was the most luxurious palace on the Cote d'Azur. The name changed to Hotel du Parc.

September 9th, 1890: An article from the Courrier this date describing the garden of Vallombrosa.
October, 1893: Hotel du Parc opened its gates for clients. South side of building was reserved for the rich clients with 100 rooms with central heating. The North side had no central heating and was reserved for normal clients. The price for a room was 18 Francs for a night.

The front of Hotel du Parc. The two towers were a part of the old Castle from before it was converted to a hotel.

Hotel du Parc brochure

Hotel du Parc brochure

Hotel du Parc
March 1897: Princess Louise, sister of the Prince of Wales, arrived for visits.
March 26th, 1897: Queen Victoria visited Hotel du Parc to see the Queen of Hanover. Also met her old enemy, Gladstone. Princess Louise had invited the Gladstones to tea and then slipped them in to see her mother. (Ref: Queen Victoria and the Discovery of the riviera by Michael Nelson page 116.)

Queen Victoria

Queen consort of Hanover - spouse of King George V of Hanover

William Ewart Gladstone - Prime Minister of England
1897-1898: The Duc and Duchesse Cumberland with the princesses Alexandra and Olga visited during the winter season.

Picture from about 1887/88
April 23th, 1898: Prince Frederick of Denmark (later King Frederick VIII of Denmark) arrived with his wife Princesses Louise of Sweden (later Queen Louise of Denmark) arrived at the hotel. They were in town to assits in the wedding between their son (later King) Cristian X and princess Alexandrine de Mecklenbourg-Schwerin on April 26th, 1898.

Prince Frederick of Denmark - later King Frederick VIII of Denmark

Princes Louise of Sweden - later Quen Louise of Denmark

Christian of Denmark - later King Christian X of Denmark

Princess Alexandrine de Mecklenbourg-Schwerin - later Queen consort Alexandrine of Denmark and Iceland

The married couple the day after the wedding

In 1905/06 Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia stayed at the Villa with his Family. He was the grand son of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) of Russia..

The Imperial family among them Grand Duke Andrei of Russia who stayed at Villa du Parc 1905/06. From left to right: Grand Duchess Tatiana, Duchess Marie Antoinette of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Olga, Grand Duke Cyril, Princess Elizabeth of Greece, Princess Olga of Greece, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Maria. In the foreground : Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, Empress Alexandra, Tsar Nicholas II, Grand Duchess Elena, Princess Marina of Greece, Grand Dukes Boris and Grand Duke Andrei

1914-1918: Hotel du Parc was used as a hospital for the wounded during the WW1.

Villa du Parc in 1922. In 1922 there was a large peace conferance in Cannes after the first world war. This is Princess Liansoff dancing at the Villa. It was found at the National Library in France. The story goes that the Villa was built by a Russian Prince for his mistress in France. Well, it was built more than 50 years earlier. But this is a real Russian Princess. Nearly fifty years later the English Princess Margareth was a frequent guest here. More information at

January 1922 during the conferance in Cannes many of the delegates stayed at Hotel du Parc. There were Russians at Villa du Parc and the German delegation was at the main hotel part at Vallombrosa. Here you see a lot of photographers outside the Hotel reception with the Villa du Parc in the background.

The German delegation arriving at the Hotel du Parc reception. What a nice ca they used. Anyone knows the type?

The delegation leader and German Foreign Minister Dr Walter Rethenau walking up towards the reception. He was shot and killed just months after this picture was taken. His father was the founder and owner of the German company AEG.

1930: The French Marchal Joffre stayed at the hotel for a few weeks.
1932: Hotel du Parc closed it doors.
1934: Hotel du Parc changed the name to Residence du Parc Vallombrosa.
November 14th, 1935: Hotel du Parc went on public auction and sold for 100 000 Francs.
It was bought by Armand Haour. He commisioned architect Weber from Villefranche-sur-Saone to convert the hotel into apartements.

Villa Eden Parc - Villefranche-Sur-Saone - architect Leon Weber (Switzerland 1892 - Vevey 1972) Leon Weber was a very innovating architect with respect for tradition, concerned to conceive comfortable homes with a lot of light. He said being an architect made him also responsable for warm and low temperatures, for light and comfort, or in one word the well-being of the inhabitants increasing in this way their happiness.
In 1934, Jean Bonthoux, a pharmacist, inventor of 'Fluxine' and the founder of a succesful lab on which his fortune was mainly based, asked Leon Weber to design a private residence and a building for the offices and lab. The residence of the Bonthoux family, called Eden Parc, has been demolished in the 1960s in order to construct a supermarket and a ten floors high building picking up the Eden parc name. The exterior of the villa was very decorative with a basin, pergola, garden and a caretaker's house. Thanks to a with photographs illustrated brochure made by Leon Weber we discover the interior and the very avant garde comfort for that period: several bathrooms, double walls with an insulating interspace, radiant heat via floors and ceiling, automatic furnace oil burners, indirect lighting, time indication and radio distribution in the rooms, refrigirating rooms, washing machine, drying machine, water softener system, ... A very artistic and luxurious look was obtained by a wide entrance gate in forged steel, three low reliefs made by artists of Lyon, three pannels painted by majorel, the use of marble and onyx ... besides the original furnishing in beautiful kinds of wood, in art deco style and of large dimensions gave..
The photographs of the vestibule and hall show the jardinieres: the hall is very wide and open towards the vestibule, only being separated by two columns surprisingly each containing an aquarium and by the two art deco jardinieres created by Jean Dulac.
Source: Leon Weber. Lyon - Villefranche Realisations, Vol. II, 1934-1938, Societe francaise d'editions d'art - Strasbourg; E. Benezit, Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs, Grund 1999, volume 4, p. 838.
1937: The hotel was converted into an apartment building with 40 flats, - one of the first in France. The name was now changed to Villa Vallombrosa.
1939-1945: Villa Vallombrosa was taken over by the German forces. It was the unit that constructed blockhauses along the Riviera coastline.
1993: The Villa Vallombrosa and the Parc Vallombrosa were declared Historic Monuments in France as an example of the XIX century architechture.
2008: New owners have taken over Villa du Parc. The idea is to bring forward some of the old glory and history of this little Chateau.

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