A fire that broke out early Wednesday morning in Paris has severely damaged a historic French mansion owned by a member of Qatar’s ruling family.
The Hotel Lambert mansion, widely considered one of the most well-preserved testaments to mid-17th century French architecture, was in the middle of controversial renovations when the fire occurred.
It took more than 150 firefighters some six hours to tame the blaze, whose cause is unknown but is thought to have originated in a hard-to-access area below the roof, Reuters reports:
By the time the fire was put out, 650 square metres (7,000 square feet) of the roof had gone, part of a central staircase and some facade masonry had collapsed and rooms had been damaged by water and smoke, fire brigade spokesman Pascal Le Testu said.
According to AFP, the building is owned by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, a brother of Qatar’s former emir, who bought it in 2007 from the Rothschild banking family for $88 million.
Past and future
The building previously served “as a hideaway for 18th-century philosopher Voltaire and his lover, and a political headquarters for Polish exiles in the following century,” the newswire states.
Al Thani’s plan to renovate the mansion to add an underground carpark, elevators and bathrooms were met with resistance by some in France who said they did not want the UNESCO World Heritage site to be destroyed.
Supporters of Al Thani said xenophobia was at play and that the mansion badly needed upgrading after falling into disrepair over the years.
A compromise was finally reached in 2010 and renovations were almost complete when the fire started.
“This is a setback for our historical heritage,” Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe told journalists on Wednesday.
Credit: Photo by Chopin Society UK on Twitter