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A Fairytale - Eric Moller Villa Shanghai
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© Christine Till - CT-Graphics
Shanghai, China, has its European eccentricity, but little prepares you for the Gothic towers and Scandinavian whimsy of Moller House, built in the early 20st century by the Swedish shipping magnate Eric Moller.
The tale goes, that in 1927 Eric Moller's daughter Deirdre ("Dido") saw a fairytale castle in her dream and wished she could have one. Upon awaking she sketched it and Papa Moller commissioned an architect to design and build his daughter's dream castle in old Scandinavian style on the northwestern edge of the French Concession. The house with its marble pillars, chandeliers, dark wood paneling, and beautiful stained glass windows was essentially finished in 1936.
The final completion of the Eric Moller Villa was delayed because a furtune-teller told Moller that if he ever finished the house, ill-fortune would befall him. So Moller dawdled, adding bits and bobs and finally completed the task in the late 1940s - and there is no doubt that Moller's fortunes took a turn for the worse. He left Shanghai in 1950 soon after the communists came to power. Four years later, in 1956, on a flight to Singapore, his Qantas plane crashed on landing, killing Eric Moller and 32 other passengers.
Looking at the Gothic fantasy, the tale seems completely plausible. After all, even in Shanghai, where grand mansions in a cacophony of international styles are commonplace, Moller mansion stands out as something special, something very different, something that could certainly have been inspired by a dream - a little girl's fantasy come to life. With its brooding, Gothic spires that look like witches' hats, grafted onto a grand Tudor facade, Moller Villa looks like something from a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale - not quite real, and not quite of this world.
However, Dido Moller stated later in her life categorically that there is not a shred of truth in this story.
July 31st, 2011
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