Wednesday, October 12, 2011
I heard of the closed tanneries from Claude Verbraeken an erudite Belgian expat with an estate near us in Baudinard. When Claude learned of my penchant for the abandoned and derelict he said I had to see Barjols. Although there had been an effort to convert the Industrial Revolution era leather factories into loft style studios and galleries he assured me there would be sufficient decay to satisfy my odd, um, cravings.
The back story is that Barjols was a major tanning center for 150 years till the industry left for Marseilles and North Africa. In 1835 there were 24 tanneries in Barjols and by the end of the century there were seven major leather producers. But by 1950 just three tanneries, Fassy, Plauchud and Vaillant, were operating and the last one closed in 1983.
Almost immediately an initiative was launched to convert the abandoned buildings into art spaces and apartments. But the results nearly thirty years later are meager. We counted two galleries, half a dozen ateliers and a couple of offices along with a few residences leaving the majority of the property to nature’s vicissitudes. I found the vacant factories with their distinctly urban vibe juxtaposed with a picturesque village quite compelling and found myself tumbling the costs and realities of having a loft in the heart of the Var.