Sunday, 2 August 2009

Villa Landon, Biskra


Made Famous by Robert Hichen's Novel "The Garden of Allah."


Count Landon, the Owner, Wants to Preserve It from being a Resort for Tourists.

Special Cablegram.

Copyright 1907, by the NEW YORK TIMES Co.

PARIS, May 23.

The wonderful garden on the edge of the Sahara - the Garden of Allah - which Robert Hichens described in his well-known novel, and which all visitors to Biskra are unanimous in calling one of the wonders of the world, may possibly pass into American hands.

In fact, one American who has just returned from a trip to Algeria, has been making inquiries with a view to purchase, and, although as it stands for the present has decided not to buy, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he might rescind that determination.

The garden is the property of Count Landon, who figures in Hichen's book under the name of Simeons. The Count is now well on in years and wishes to place the beauty spot, on which he has expended many years of affectionate toil and a large sum of money, beyond the reach of the speculator who might turn it to what the proprietor considers base uses.

The price the count asks is not high, only $40,000, but the condition he fixes for the sale is that the garden must become the property of a private individual and maintained with all its present characteristics, and not be turned into an attraction for the Philistine cheap-tripper.

The Companie Internationale des wagons-Lits made an offer to purchase the garden as soon as Count Landon's desire to sell it became known, but the Count flatly refused to consider a proposition coming from a company whose interests are diametrically opposed to the ideals which have actuated the proprietor in his labour of love.

Within the last fortnight inquiries with a view to a possible eventual purchase were made by an american, M. W. Vance, a member of a wealthy family of Wheeling, W. Va., who has been travelling in Northern Africa, and who was entranced by this earthly paradise.

In the fervour of the enthusiasm awakened by the sight of the beauties of the garden, Mr. Vance was anxious to buy it outright, but a consideration of the conditions which Count Landon's representative informed him were essential to the sale gave his ardour time to cool.

George C. Tyler, the Managing Director of Liebler & Co., with whom Mr. Vance had traveled to Biskra, today said that he would be surprised if, when once Count Landon's desire to sell the garden became known, he had much difficulty in finding a purchaser.

Mr. Tyler says that for a millionaire bridegroom who desires seclusion and is able to pay for it amid surroundings of beauty which it is impossible to exaggerate, there is nothing in this world to equal this enchanted garden.

"Hichens's descriptions," said Mr. Tyler, "are far below the truth. Expert as is his pen, no writing could do justice to the marvellous garden. It covers about twelve acres, every foot of which reveals a new beauty. The house within the garden is exactly as the novellist described it, and admirably suited to the purpose for which it was designed.

"The garden is kept with such extreme care by an army of employees whose labours are not merely those of skilled workmen, but are inspired by an almost religious cult of beauty, that hardly a leaf falls that is not marked.

"Count Landon must have spent a considerable sum in the realization of his dream, for to obtain the supply of water for purposes of irrigation alone cost him $12,ooo."

May 26th, 1907

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