09 March 2010

Derelict! - Villa Mer et Monts

Everytime I drive down the Gorbio valley I see this derelict house high on the hillside and have always wondered about it. The other day I happened to be driving on the other side of the valley on a road I'd never been on before - and there it was in the distance. I snapped the main photo and then asked a man walking his dog if he knew the name of the house. He did. Villa Mer et Monts (Sea and Mountains) and after that research was easy. He also told me the nearest place I could park but that I'd have to walk to the house.

I ignored a chain barrier saying 'no entry' and walked up a very long and steep drive to the property. Some of the shutters were half off and swung in the wind, the whole house seemed to creak and make weird music - it was pretty scary. I thought I'd be able to return to my car from the road beyond the house but it was blocked and so I had to retrace my footsteps. I can tell you I ran through the archways you see at the base of the building and won't be going back again - at least not alone! I wish someone would restore this beautiful building but frankly it's probably too far gone.

In 1905, an Englishman, Mr. Smith-Ryland, bought from the Baroness de Berge, widow of a former Senator of the Loire, the Villa Mer et Monts located in the Val de Gorbio, well away from habitual locations of the entrenched aristocracy, which was in the area of Garavan. It was too small for Mr. Smith-Ryland's taste and so he razed the building to the ground but kept the original name. He instructed the architect Abel Glena to design a large house surrounded by a park of 20,000 m2. The villa standing on a foundation of stone arches which forms a terrace, has forty rooms overlooking the sea and mountains and therefore living up to its name.

Each season, the owners organized 'bridge and dance parties' that reunited many of the British colony who spent their winters in Menton. Sometimes, Mr. Smith-Ryland rented the villa to friends such as Washington Singer, a son of the inventor of the sewing machine.

After the First World War the villa was converted into a nursing and maternity home. Under the direction of Dr. Seguel and surrounded by British personnel, the building welcomed patients who wished to take a 'cure' in the micro-climate of Menton, like Prince Yusupov, the assassin of Rasputin, along with his wife Princess Irina and his brother, Theodore.

Villa Mer et Monts has been abandoned for some years and is now the property of the Conseil General des Alpes Martimes.


  1. The building is lovely, very pleasing. I hope the roof is still intact and there is no damage inside. Lovely wall painting detail.

  2. The roof doesn't look too bad actually - well other than what we see in the last photo. Unfortunately with so many windows open to the elements, there is a lot of internal damage. I could see one beautiful vaulted ceiling looking very mouldy.

  3. Beutiful pictures, especially the first view. The wall painting is amazing.

  4. elle est magnifique cette villa, j'espère que le conseil va la rénover. En plus la vue depuis la villa doit être magnifique

  5. This house is very beautiful and it is part of Menton history. I hope it will get renovated.

  6. Vincent van Gogh wanted to start an artists' colony in Arles, so why don't we contact the Conseil General to see if we can start a bloggers' colony? We can all devote ourselves to some aspect of local history, food, wine....wheee!

    I'm half-serious, ha!

    Gorgeous place; I'm game.

  7. Oh that house looks so preety...

    Great photots...


  8. What a beautiful building! A pity it's in such a bad condition!
    Maybe a rich reader of your blog can buy it and make a bed & breakfast place out of it and everyone of us could come for a visit one day... ;-))
    Barbara from Germany

  9. The decay of this beautiful place makes me so sad. I think you move us with your photographs of it and your commentary, not the least bit sentimental, has an unexpectedly powerful emotional impact.

  10. Wow - what a treasure it must have been in its prime! What a terrible, terrible, terrible shame to see it in such poor condition! It would have been exciting to "explore!"

  11. Oh that's our brave girl! I love it that you just charged right past the "no trespassing" sign Jilly!!! That last shot is wonderful. What a "fixer upper"!

  12. Thank you for the story and the photos.
    Very nice building, sorry to be left and damaged by the weather and the time...

  13. Gosh, just imagine what could be done with such a magnificent building!!!

  14. I think we all agree that we hope it will be lovingly restored...and soon!!! It is much too beautiful to be allowed to decay...

  15. Sad to see this beautiful property in such a state. Loved to hear the history behind it.

  16. I wandered over from Peters post -- and I think I am in love with Villa Mer et Monts (Sea and Mountains) did you ever see a place or house for the very first time and recognize it somehow but have never been there? It has that haunting dream quality for me.. That is the feeling I get looking at this house, I wish I had a big parcel of money and I would restore this villa to its former glory in a heart beat.-- maybe someone will see your post and rally to save this historic building?
    Just musing maybe Peter and you can go take more photos together next time he is in Menton? Would love to see more pictures before it is no more..,,
    Lovely blog,

  17. Joanny, thanks so much for your visit and yes, that is a great idea for when Peter next visits. In fact the car park nearest to the Villa Mer et Monts is the carpark of the Jardin de la Serre de la Madone which is probably Menton's most beautiful and famous garden - so yet another reason to go there. Thanks!

  18. We'll both get there when I'll come back ? Jilly.
    The story of its past make me think about the Great Gatsby, in an other kind.

  19. really nice pictures :) have a good day

  20. A shame, really, for such a beautiful villa. I often wonder to the reasons why buildings are abandoned.

    I'm afraid the cost of purchasing the property and then to rebuild the villa would be much too costly. I do hope you return with fellow photographers, (for safety) and capture scenes from inside.

  21. How sad that the Conseil général is letting it go to ruins!

  22. Merci d'avoir porté ce bel édifice à notre connaissance ! J'espère que vous avez fait, ou pourrez faire, une campagne photographique complète afin de conserver une trace de cette demeure magnifique.

    Malheureusement, je pense que le Conseil Général va la laisser se détériorer jusqu'à ce qu'il soit impossible ou trop coûteux de la restaurer et qu'ainsi sa démolition sera justifiée. Les institutions françaises propriétaires de ce type de patrimoine agissent bien souvent ainsi, ce qui est scandaleux !

  23. First, I want to say how I like the photos in your blog, so juicy and colorful and so French.
    Second, I do not comment often, as it is hard to say smth special when I am the 40th in a row...
    And the third, I was so inspired by your photo of this building, that drew it and was very pleased while drawing. Thank you very much for my inspiration.
    It is here, if you find time to look.
    All the best!

  24. Irina, this is just wonderful. You are so talented. Tomorrow (the 17th March) On this blog I will put your link on, so everyone can see your beautiful watercolour. Well done and thanks so much for telling me.

  25. J'ai des photos de l'intérieur si cela vous interesse.

  26. Jilly, I just came across this post while snooping through your blog. Can you perhaps post an update on this house, or have you?

    What a pleasure to see your photo as well as Irina's watercolor. You and she are two of my favorite things on the web.

  27. just like we back to the imperial age Thanks For Sharing that..............

  28. Hello,
    I was interested to read about this neglected forgotten villa in Menton and wonder if you have ever come across The Villa Rosmarino on the Boulevard de Garavan? I have never been to Menton but after finding out the villa still stands, although it is also a forgotten shell, I intend to go one day. My great Grandfather owned the villa and my father, who died when I was a girl was born there. I would love to hear any information you may have,

    1. I saw this question about the Villa Rosmarino and the relationships tie up. Is JH you, Jane?


  29. JH, if you do a google search you'll come up with a book published in 1925 or do an image search and there are lots of photos, mostly of the garden.

    I have a friend who owns one of Menton's famous gardens and will ask him when I next see him. Please write me privately, sometimes I miss comments on the blog.

  30. Hi everyone !
    I live in Menton since 2012, and the first time I saw this amazing house was last year.
    Two days ago, I went to Gorbio, and when I was driving back to Menton, I saw again this villa. So, yesterday, I decided to get there. What I did today ! I spent 30 minutes there and I took approximatively 40 pictures... I think I fell in love.

    I've juste created a Facebook page dedicated to the house, here is the link : www.facebook.com/villa.mer.et.monts

  31. BenMiller, well done doing this. I can see from the photos that the building has greatly deteriorated since I took mine 6 years ago. Like you I love this house.

  32. I'm still following this thread! Thank you, BenMiller, I clicked "Like" on the Facebook page.
    At the moment I'm dreaming of having so much money that I can hire the craftspeople and say to them, "Make it a home again!"

  33. Petrea, someone has bought this villa with a view to turning it into an arts centre, which would be brilliant. Now the building is totally enclosed with video surveillance as not so long ago I wanted to get inside and take pics. Let's hope that renovation happens. Can't imagine the cost! I may write the guy one day. I have his details - and ask if he'd let me inside to take photographs because it is redone.

  34. That's good news! I'd love to see photos of the inside, if and when you can get them. I look forward to that post.

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  37. Good evening !

    That's right Jilly, the villa is well deteriorated...

    The house has been given by the owner to the city during the 80's because she couldn't afford the taxes on the succession. In the legacy, it has been mentioned that the house had to be used for culture.

    As Jilly Said, someone has bought this villa but i read it was to refit it.
    It would cost between 10 000 000 and 12 000 000 euros to renovate it ! (Information taken in the newspaper)

    I went back to house yesterday with my best friend who is studying in the best architect school in Paris because I wanted him to discover this magnificent house. Same attitude, he loved it !

    I took some pictures because it was sunny and I added them to the Facebook page.

    You will be able to see some pictures of the interior of paints and the back of the house where we discovered a nice bridge made of metal ! (Pictures taken through doors or windows)

    Here is the link : www.facebook.com/villa.mer.et.monts

    I look forward to that post as well !!

  38. Hello,
    Any news on Villa Mer et Monts? Did someone start the renovation work ?
    I would love to hear about it. This villa is such a treasure of the Côte d’Azur belle époque architecture! I am convinced that it can be completely renovated…I follow “escape to rural France” on YouTube.. this could be a similar story!
    Thank you,


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