Paris’s Albert Kahn Garden … Haven of greenery and peace …

A few stops from the Eiffel Tower on Paris’s No. 10 Métro Line and a stone’s throw from the River Seine on a nondescript narrow street, is to be found the Albert Kahn Garden. The street is Rue du Port and this area of Paris is Boulogne-Billancourt, chic, bourgeois and expensive. Standing outside a one-story […]

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

A few stops from the Eiffel Tower on Paris’s No. 10 Métro Line and a stone’s throw from the River Seine on a nondescript narrow street, is to be found the Albert Kahn Garden.

The street is Rue du Port and this area of Paris is Boulogne-Billancourt, chic, bourgeois and expensive.

Standing outside a one-story building that looks like a small town’s Protestant temple – numbers 10 to 14 along the street – you may not believe that you have come to the right place, but indeed you have and you are about to enjoy a few most enchanting hours.

The Albert Kahn Museum and Garden

The Albert Kahn Museum and Garden

 

The man who this garden was named after – Albert Kahn – was a Jewish banker and philanthropist. Born in the French region of Lower-Rhine (Bas-Rhin) in 1860, he settled in Paris in 1876, aged 16, and started working as a gofer at the Goudchaux Investment House founded by the Jewish Goudchaux brothers. In Paris, studying at night, for his baccalauriat school-leaving certificate and having passed with distinction, he began to study law obtaining his law degree. In 1889, aged 29, he began to speculate on the gold and diamond mines of the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope (today the Republic of South Africa), and in 1898, aged 39, he became the principal partner in the Goudchaux Investment House at No 102 Rue de Richelieu in central Paris.

Albert Kahn on the balcony of his bank.

Albert Kahn on the balcony of his bank.

Wealthy, Albert Kahn constructed a residence for himself in Boulogne-Billancourt, on Rue du Port, and established what is today the exquisite Albert Kahn Garden. A keen traveller and with a vision to create a photographic record of the world he sent teams of photographers around the globe to take photographs. From 1909 to 1931 these photographers took all of 72,000 photographs, in black or colour, and 183,000m of film in 50 countries.

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 left Albert Kahn, at that time one of the richest men in the World, bankrupt. The result was that the French state seized his assets which included his investment house and having managed to hold on the Rue du Port property, in 1936, penniless, he was forced to sell out to the local town authority, the Département de la Seine. He was though allowed to remain living in the house. He could thus continue to enjoy walks in the garden despite that the new owners had opened it to the public.

In 1940, WW2 against Nazi German raging and France having surrendered to the Germans who occupied the country, Jews were being rounded up and transported in railroad cattle cars to concentration and death camps. Albert Kahn, 80 years old, would also have been deported, but that year, on November 14, he collapsed having suffered a heart attack and would not recover.  One cannot help to ask oneself whether Albert Kahn was lucky in that a heart attack had saved him from death in one of Hitler’s gas ovens.

Today’s proprietors of Albert Kahn’ property, the Département des Hauts-de-Seine, has turned the property into a museum and public garden: the Albert Kahn Musée et Jardin Départementaux. In the building in the front section – the building that looks like a Protestant temple – visitors can view those photographs and the film footage Albert Kahn’s photographers had taken. On his death the collection which he had said was an archive of our planet was found in the house and was valued at – 500 French Francs. The collection today is known as The Archive of our Planet.

Albert Kahn Garden June 2015 - 5

The garden covers four of the property’s original 17 acres and is divided into sections.

There is a formal French garden and a verdant English garden, a rose garden, a green ‘Vosges’ Alpine forest, a ‘blue forest’ with cedars and black pines.

Visitors walk along narrow winding and climbing paths, moss-covered boulders to each side, narrow waterfalls of clear water cascading down.

Albert Kahn Garden June 2015 - 6

The centrepiece is a Japanese garden complete with a red-painted bridge over a pond filled with the most beautiful Khoi fish.

The Albert Kahn Garden cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The Albert Kahn Garden cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

On weekend afternoons visitors may enjoy a traditional tea ceremony in a wooden Japanese tea house.

As nothing in life is free, there is a fee of €4 for an adult to visit Mr Kahn’s garden and the mueum. Small children go in for free and it will cost €2.50 for the over 12s and under 25s.

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Closing day is Monday.

From Tuesday to Sunday you can visit from 11 am to 7 pm and from October to April from 11 am to 6pm.

There are many restaurants an cafés in the area for a meal or just a drink, but they are all on the expensive side.

Albert Kahn Garden June 2015 - 4

 

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The Albert Kahn Garden (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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