The French “Roméo & Juliet”
Love at First Sight…
Coming from an upper class family of Bordeaux, Camille Mader was what one would have called a “good catch.” A close relative to the wealthy Godard brothers – wine dealers from Bordeaux who owned the prestigious château Kirwan – he was also a scientist, fascinated by the technological innovations of the early 20th century.
In 1905, when Camille met the young Clara Thépenier, heiress of a rich businessman from Auvergne, it was love at first sight! Wildly in love, Clara, who was barely eighteen years old at the time, used her own money to buy Domaine de la Hourcade, a vast property located in Gujan. This land was to be a gift to the love of her life. The choice of this property was not by chance: Camille’s health was fragile. Arcachon was a chic resort, known for the health benefits of its climate and recommended for the ill and convalescing. Clara thought that the fresh air of the bay would restore the strength and vigor of her lover. In addition, the property was adjacent to the railroad that conveniently linked Bordeaux to Arcachon. A small train station served the charming port of Gujan – an additional advantage in Clara’s eyes, who knew of Camille’s fascination for trains…
And, so it was that, against the advice of their families – Camille’s mother formally opposed the marriage – our Belle Epoque Romeo and Juliet were married in Paris in 1906.
Immediately, Clara has a mansion built in the neo-classical style on the estate. This magnificent house is embellished with a rotunda that is bathed in light and wide windows opening onto a French park. Large terraces festooned with balustrades punctuate the facade of the building.
Surrounded by a courtyard and protected by a high wall, the château is crowned by a romantic belvedere. Camille spends hours contemplating the horizon over the sea on the bay side, or looking to the south where his young bride enjoys riding her horses along the railway, hair in the wind, in wild races against trains …
Starting in 1908, the eminent and elegant people rush to this prestigious residence, quickly denominated “Château Mader”, where the young couple hosts splendid receptions.
But after this magnificent era, over the years and successive owners, the château will gradually fall into oblivion.
In 2013, Pierre LePendeven fell in love with Château Mader but was surprised by its abandoned state. His wife, daughter of local oyster farmers, had many times extolled to him the past beauty of this shrine of local heritage, which she had visited as a child.
With his experience in the construction and decoration of high-end homes in California, Pierre LePendeven began renovating the Château to restore it to its original splendor, while adding contemporary comfort. Working with the best local craftsmen, he painstakingly restored the ceilings, walls and wood floors; he brought color back to the wall frescoes, recreated the stained glass ceiling from motifs in vogue at the Belle Epoque, and bought china from local antique dealers to decorate the living rooms and suites. Under his watchful eye, the classic garden was recreated, embellished with magnificent flower beds. He uncovered a gazebo, facing the renovated shallow pool, and installed a spa beneath the stone archways of the rotunda.
A 5-star Rating
In 2017, in recognition of the quality of the renovation and the equipment offered, the classification “Meublé de Tourisme 5 Etoiles,” the highest rating given by the French Ministry of Tourism, was awarded to Château Mader.
That year, in Gironde, out of 3,000 listed establishments, only 8 received this coveted label, including Château Mader, the only 5-star rated château in the Arcachon Bay area!