A sprawling mansion lies abandoned in the center of an unkempt field. There is little else around. You would never have guessed that you’re barely 20km from the outskirts of Paris. Well, that is if you ignore the never-ending sounds of overhead planes. Goussainville is a ghost town that time forgot and that the council abandoned.
Now, before I go on, it’s worth mentioning that there is still a functioning town by the name of Goussainville. It has its own ReR stop, dozens of shops and a thriving population. Oh, and it’s barely a kilometer away from the Goussainville I’m talking about today which is the Vieux-Pays (Old country literally meaning Old town).
A culmination of disaster and fed up residents led to the eventual abandonment of the Vieux-Village. Everything was going pretty swell in the lively village right up until the mid-20th Century. Situated in Val d’Oise, this was a lively town up until the construction of the nearby Charles de Gaulle airport in the 1970s.
The new airport, which would one day become the largest in France, ensured that the once peaceful village never got more than a minutes silence again. So disgruntled were the residents, that they began to abandon the town by the dozen.
The final nail in the coffin for Goussianville came in 1973 when a plane from a nearby airshow tragically crashed in the village. All eight on board and a further six on the ground perished. By this point, there was no going back. The remaining villagers fled, without even selling their houses.
The airport was later forced to purchase over 100 of these houses and signed a contract, agreeing to take care of them. This agreement was obviously never enforced and the houses were left to rot…
Without a doubt, the biggest draw of Goussainville has got to be the abandoned mansion that lies in a field of its own. A field that was presumably once a beautifully manicured garden! There’s a reason that #urbex has rapidly become one of my favourite hashtags tags on Instagram and it’s that abandoned urban places are just so interesting. What really strikes me is how quickly a place can fall into disrepair after a mere few decades of disuse.
The mansion of Goussainville is no exception. It’s lost its roof, floor and a good number of its windows. Names and initials are graffitied onto every available surface and it’s clear that the manor house has seen better days! Built in the 19th century, the French Château was commissioned by Monsieur Théodore Frapart on the grounds of what had once been a previous castle. His heirs still own parts of the town and the abandoned manor house today.
The actual reason that the houses in Goussainville still stand to this day is all because of the Goussainville church. Situated on a mound, rising up from the rest of the village, the area surrounding the surprisingly large church is protected. This means that the houses surrounding it can neither be demolished nor altered in any dramatic way.
This 14th Century church of St Paul and St Peter, although protected by the state, is permanently closed to the public. All this, despite a renovation project in 2010 that saw it being restored to its former glory. The graveyard is also tragically dilapidated and tombstones have cracked left, right and center.
Perhaps the strangest quality of Goussainville is that a large portion of the Goussainville Vieux-Pays is still inhabited. Despite years of neglect in some parts of town; notably the church and mansion, other parts of the somewhat derelict village are absolutely thriving.
While some houses have been left to the elements, others are full of signs of life. It makes for an interesting walk around a town that was once teeming with activity. Next to the abandoned Carrefour (supermarket) sits a still functioning ‘Gousainlivres’; a second-hand bookstore that is open a lot of the time.
The village is a juxtaposition of traditional values meeting modern culture and the result is a rather eerie mix of abandoned houses sitting side by side with manicured lawns.
And the future of Goussainville? Well, the town may be protected but that doesn’t mean that the future is all too bright. Most of the previous residents of Goussainville Vieux-Pays have picked up their belongings and families and moved to the new town of Goussainville. A town which is notably not under the flight path of an international airport.