VERSAILLES (AFP).- Work finally started on Monday to renovate the Monte-Cristo mansion near Paris that was once home to famed novelist Alexandre Dumas, author of classics including "The Three Musketeers".
Work to restore the mansion, which has fallen into disrepair and is threatened by humidity, began with repairs to the fountains and water systems in the English-style gardens.
The estate director, Frederique Lurol, said work on restoring the building itself will begin before the year's end and last until May.
Estate managers said repairs will total 921,000 euros ($1 million), which will include replacing the plumbing, roof and stained glass windows.
The estate hopes the cost will be covered by government grants and public donations, but fundraising efforts have been disappointing with only 20,000 euros collected since February.
However, insurance giant Groupama has promised a contribution of 200,000 euros that will be made available on Friday. The city's senator has also contributed 33,000 euros to the restoration.
Having made a fortune from his literary successes, Dumas had the mansion built in Port-Marly in 1844 and named it after one of his most popular novels, "The Count of Monte-Cristo".
He called the ornate three-floor, neo-Renaissance house "a paradise on Earth".
A small house on the grounds, in which Dumas used to work, also requires a complete overhaul.
Called Chateau D'If, it is named after the prison in which Edmond Dantes, hero of the "The Count of Monte-Cristo", was locked up for 14 years.
About 21,000 people visited the estate last year. Dumas' house will remain open during the renovations, but Chateau D'If will be inaccessible.
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