Sitting in a corner of the Bois de Vincennes, the Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale (or “The Garden of Tropical Agriculture”) is a true curiosity. Open to the public today as gardens and managed by the city of Paris, it is based around the ruins of a colonial exhibition from 1907.
The site was originally created in 1899 as a “jardin d’essai colonial,” with the goal of coordinating agricultural experiments that would lead to the introduction or reintroduction of exotic plants across the French colonies. During the summer of 1907, though, it bizarrely became the home of several communities from these colonies who lived in five distinct villages on the site.
Throughout the summer, French visitors swarmed to the gardens to observe the groups in their recreated “typical” environments, and were even able to purchase goods and foodstuffs from them.
At the end of the summer, the residents returned to their true homes, and the site began its slow decay. The land was the property of the French state and very much off limits, and it wasn’t until the site was purchased by the city of Paris and reopened to the public in 2007 that people could see what it had become.
The five villages are still in place, but the buildings - today fenced off from visitors - have all almost completely collapsed. Most have trees and other vegetation growing from within, and even the hothouses have been left to rot. As the garden receives few visitors it provides a very peaceful but rather spooky experience.