The Marble Palace

22 October 2020

The villa « Les Palmiers » is located in the Fabron district in Nice, but it is well known as the «Marble Palace».

Initiated around 1840 on behalf of Honoré Gastaud, a banker of Nice, the construction of this property testifies to the splendour of the residences of the Riviera in the second half of the 19th century, with its vast glazed winter garden, a gazebo above artificial caves, the park full of araucaria, eucalyptus cedars and palm trees. The property will receive the visit of the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna during her stay in 1856, and of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie during the celebrations for the annexation of the County of Nice to France.

After the bank failure Gastaud, this land of 23 hectares that extends to the sea was repurchased at auction in 1871 by Ernest Gambart, art lover and Consul of Spain. The latter entrusts the work to Sébastian-Marcel Biasini, important architect in Nice of the Belle Epoque, which will give it its Italian Renaissance and needed 27 boats loaded with Carrara marble (hence the name of Marble Palace). On the south facade, decorated with statues, Ernest Gambart has engraved this beautiful verse of the English poet John Keats Keats : ‘’a thing of beauty is a loy forever’’.

A top Niçoise hotspot, the villa attracts for years all the personalities in view, for sumptuous receptions. Following the death of Ernes Gambart, the estate was bought in 1905 by the Russian baron Alexander von Faltz-Fein (1864-1919), officer of Tsar Nicolas II, from an illustrious family of German origin. In particular, a semi-circular ballroom is attached to the west wing of the villa and dig an artificial lake.

Édouard Soulas, important landlowner, buys the marble Palace in 1923 and had a french garden built by Octave Godard. The enterior is embellished with the double-revolution staircase and the rotunda by the decorator Ernest Pinard.

During the Second World War, the villa is occupied successively by the Italians, the Germans and the Americans. In 1956, Fabron’s real estate company acquired the property to build the real estate complex « Les Grands Cèdres ». A part of the park is preserved and the villa ceded to the city of Nice in 1960 which decided to install the Municipal Archives (inaugurated on November 18, 1963).

These archives constituite the memory of Nice. The oldest document is the charter of Alphonse I, Count of Provence, and dates 1176. By Prefectural Decree of 1993, the villa, the park and the caves are inscribed in the supplementary inventory of historical monuments.

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