How I built my Dream Palace

Postman Cheval’s last interview, published in 1919 in the British review "The Wide World Magazine”.

Old Photo (1905) by Joseph DouzetPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

At the little borough of Hauterives, in the pretty valley of the Galaure, not far from the town of Valence-sur-Rhône, in France, there exists an extraordinary building known locally as the "Dream Palace" or the "Postman's Folly". 

This building is the sole handiwork, from start to finish, of one man, a rural postman, named Ferdinand Cheval. In the following narrative, M.Cheval gives an account of how he came to conceive and build his "Dream Palace", a remarkable instance of human tenacity and perseverance.

Old Photo (c 1900)Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"A good many visitors, after examining my "Ideal Palace" or my "Dream Palace", whichever you prefer to call it - find it difficult to believe that all this is the work of a single person."

"Yet the entire adult living population of Hauterives can testify to the fact that in building this palace I was my own architect, my own contrator, my own stone-mason. Nobody had anything to do with  the putting up of the building but myself."

Old Photo (1905) by Joseph DouzetPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"How did the notion come to me ? Well, for many years, and throughout the year, in all weathers, my duty as a rural postman took me over a twenty-mile daily tramp."

"What is a man to do when walking across country by himself but to cogitate about anything and everything ? Sometimes I would turn over in my mind what I had read in the morning newspaper."

Ferdinand Cheval by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"One day somebody lent me an old illustrated book of Eastern stories, and one of the pictures in this book was a remarkable palace that some Indian Prince had built. Somehow or other, the picture of the Indian Palace, and the description of it in the book, haunted my mind."

"I began to dream of a palace of my own."

Old Photo (1905) by Joseph DouzetPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"In imagination I built it up day by day, and gradually, as a result of over a couple of years dreaming - I scarcely like to describe my day-dreams as property-thought-out plans - I knew the palace of my dreams all by heart. In fact, I hab it all pictured out in my brain as I would build it."

"The grottos, towers, gardens, sculpture-work, and terraces of my dream palace, as I intended to carry them out, were all photographed with the greatest clearness in my mental vision."

Stumbling Block (1980) by Clovis PrevostPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"One fine spring morning, an insignicant incident led to my dream becoming a reality. I slipped up on a round stone which nearly sent me head over heels into the little stream which ran by the side of the road. I picked it up to have a good look at it."

Ideal Palace (c 1882) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"When I had accumulated sufficient stones to make a start, I fished out the folio in which I had put all the bits of paper upon which I had sketched, in a crude sort of manner, all my ideas about the building of the palace."

Old Photo (c 1902)Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"I was forty-three years of age at the time, and mark you ! I had never touched a trowel in my life, but I had picked up a good deal of knowledge from watching stone-masons and bricklayers at work."

Old Photo (c 1894) by Maître RivoirePostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"I started the work of building my palace in the spring of 1879, and kept at it for no less than thirty-four years ! During this long period I put in nine thousand days of work, or sixty-five thousand working hours - for I kept a journal of my work, and the time spent on it."

Old Photo (1905)Postman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"I had to buy no less than four thousand bags of lime and cement, which I paid for out of my small savings as a rural postman, and out of the sums that were presented to me by visitors attracted from far and near by the rumours of the extraordinary building i was engaged in putting up."

Old Photo (1905) by Joseph DouzetPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

"To avoid the annoyance of the quips and sarcasm of passers-by, who saw me with my wheelbarrow, I took to fetching my material after dusk, and often worked far into the night."

"Very little sleep has always been sufficient for my needs. Indeed six hours rest was as much as I have ever required, so I went to bed late, and yet was up betimes in the morning."

Ferdinand Cheval's portrait (1905) by Ferdinand ChevalPostman Cheval's Ideal Palace

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