Emmanuel Margolin’s Notre Dame Zoo and French Chateau worth $27 million that was once coined “The Best House in the World” by the TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, is now a relic of its former self.
Spread over 45 hectares deep in the mountains of Mulgoa, Sydney, the Margolin residence and abandoned Notre Dame zoo used to house endangered species such as panthers, pumas and jaguars. Nine species of monkeys, Spanish Andalusian stallions worth $1 million and other exotic animals and flora/fauna also thrived here back in the 80’ and 90’s.
The animal cages, stables, gift shop and café are still intact although overcome by sprawling nature. Near to the cages, sits the chateau that the owner, Emmanuel Margolin lived in with his family and once filled it with antiques such as a mirror owned by Mary Queen of Scots and a Mazarin desk owned by Louis XIII.
During an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1995, Emmanuel told reporter, Daphne Guinness, he had 20 clocks to wind up each day, his most prized one is one that was given to Napolean when he captured the sphinx in Egypt.
Emmanuel owned numerous other riches including “Playel”, the oldest French piano in existence that had once been placed by Chopin, a Baccarat chandelier worth $60,000 and matching gold Rolls Royce cars for him and his wife.
Its unknown exactly how many people lived in the Margolin residence, but it must have been a lot as the living space consisted of 50 rooms altogether including nine bathrooms, four kitchens, eight guest houses, and a three-story gym.
His private zoo and garden grounds included stables, croquet lawn, Shinto shrine, rainforest, and an Olympic sized horse show arena. Six zookeepers, four gardeners, a mechanic, foreman, carpenter, and 71 Blackamoor spear-laden guards looked after the property.
Margolin held many private and sometimes public events, but it wasn’t the horse shows, entry fees or hard earned work that paid for his extreme wealth. Instead, Emmanuel had registered his zoo as a charity called The Association for the Preservation and Welfare of Endangered Species and The Preservation of Australian Flora and Fauna.
Instead of preserving animals, the thousands raised provided rent-free accommodation for the Margolin’s, a $1,000-a-week salary for his caretaker, and it covered the family’s living expenses. As of June 1988, the bogus charity had accumulated losses of $310,000 and made loans of $1.3 million. Needless to say, the charity was denounced and rumours of Margolin being fiery-tempered not just with his staff but also his animals surfaced.
In 1990, Emmanuel decided he wanted to sell up due to the heightened amount of tourist interest in the zoo. The property has since been bought by foreign investors but nothing has been demolished or refurbished as of yet.
Some say caretakers look after the site 24/7 but I doubt it’s true, as the buildings are in great disrepair and many abandoned cars and animal bones are scattered throughout the site (bit creepy).
Strangely enough, it was the first time I had gone urban exploring and found an abandoned building to photograph that hadn’t yet been destroyed by graffiti or rubbish. Instead, the buildings are overpowered by overgrown weeds, thorn bushes and bushes, which gives it a haunting look.
It also illustrates just how secret this place really is and how untouched the history.
Check out my full gallery of photos below!
All slideshow photos below of the inside of the mansion are taken by another urbexer who kindly gave me permission to use his images. See more of his amazing photography on his @fitzy_urbexerryday Instagram account!
Abandoned World Photos: