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Preservation and enhancement of a precious heritage

Maison Célières : Preservation and enhancement of a precious heritage

New Caledonia's colonial mansions bear poignant witness to everyday life in a bygone era. For the descendants of early New Caledonian settlers, their grandparents’ home is a family haven filled with cherished childhood memories. We have a duty to preserve these old houses as a precious heritage, treasured for their beauty and sentimental value.

Nowadays, Noumea’s neighbourhoods are far more densely populated, the city has expanded and been transformed into a bustling modern urban centre. There is an increasing demand for housing, and more and more homes need to be built to cater for an ever-growing population. People are attracted to the city and land is scarce. Our colonial houses occupy extensive areas of land in choice locations, an irresistible magnet for developers and building contractors. And so century-old houses regularly vanish to make way for new blocks of flats.

The time has come to preserve and protect these villas and mansions which have withstood the ravages of time, insects and adverse weather. The local authorities cannot save all of them; that is why private owners must also take action and find out what they can do and the resources they can call on to help preserve them. Maison Charbonneaux is a case in point. Built in 1898 with the same floor plan as Maison Célières but without a masonry basement, the house was gutted by fire in 2009, leaving only a charred shell. Nevertheless, the owner decided to rebuild his home exactly as it was and the house rose afresh from its ashes. An inspiring example of a private owner’s personal and financial commitment to preserving a magnificent building.

Visitors will find a wealth of colonial houses, built between 1880-1930, to explore in the Faubourg Blanchot neighbourhood. The sightseeing walk entitled “Parcours du Faubourg”, inaugurated in 2013, showcases nearly thirty historic houses. But many other architectural jewels lie scattered around the early neighbourhoods which grew up around the city centre: Orphelinat, Vallée du Tir, the Latin Quarter, Vallée des Colons and Vallée du Génie. A leisurely wander around the backstreets of these neighbourhoods will reveal many small but utterly delightful New Caledonian homes, often set in bowers of flowers and greenery...

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Texts and illustrations: Association Témoignage d’un Passé © 2016