The story behind this amazing project is just as… well, amazing! For 33 years, Ferdinand Cheval, a country postman, walked up to 18 miles a day in Southeast France delivering mail. Through the years, he collected hundreds and thousands of rocks from the abandoned quarry nearby. The shapes of these stones fascinated Cheval, and he soon began an impressive collection.
During his days delivering mail, Cheval was immensely intrigued by pictures of the exotic places featured in the magazines he handled. With respect to the time in history, such exposure was rare for a rural postman to be exposed to back in the mid 1800’s.
Stumbling over a rock is what began Cheval’s 33 year long project to build and complete Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval. This magnificent creation of Outsider Art became an inspiration for the Surrealist movement that followed soon thereafter. Retiring from his “day job” at age 60, Cheval began construction on Alicius Villa, which would become his final home. With his wheelbarrow in tow, Cheval’s final project is a mausoleum in the cemetery of the village of Hauterives which he envisions as his “final resting place”.
It’s become an “out of the way” tourist attraction that speaks volumes to what one man’s imagination can master. The Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval was classified as a Historical Monument by André Malraux, Minister for Cultural Affairs from 1959 to 1969, who considered the building to be the quintessential example of naïve architecture. Quite an accomplishment for a rural postman!