NOT an 16th century house in France

This great photo of an old looking house has been shared all over the internet with the claim that it shows a house built in 1509 in the town of Argentan, France.

Although it looks absolutely lovely, this building was not built in 1509 (which is sort of not Medieval) but in 1955 and most of the medieval style decorating was done in the 1960s.

When I first saw the photo I was immediately suspicious, not because of how it looked but because it was in Argentan, a town that suffered immensely during the Second World war, a large section of it was completely destroyed in 1944.
I was wondering how the building survived that or if it was perhaps later rebuilt.
But when I found a higher resolution version of the photo I started to wonder if perhaps it was not as old as people claimed it was.

Argentan station, 1944.

The picture is very popular and to this day it is regularly shared with the same claim but no more information.
My first step was to try and find out the origin of the photo, with a bit of reverse-image searching I soon found the talented photographer who had uploaded the photo to in 2013 under the name Hubert61, you can find it by clicking here; House Argentan Orne France.
Although there was not a lot of extra information on that page I did find a few comments that suggested the building was new.

The next step was tracing the actual location, I digitally wandered around Argentan (thanks Google maps) till I found it, the house is situated on the land behind 72 Rue Aristide Briand, it’s on private property, so don’t go snooping around the place without permission.
But when I found it and when I saw the side of the building I realised my instinct was correct, there really was something iffy about the building, the side didn’t look medieval at all.

Once I knew the address it became a bit easier to research the history of this building.
I checked several online records that list all the monuments in the town, this house was not listed.
French archive and records websites were either unavailable to me or too complicated to make sense of as putting them through Google Translate would be too complicated.
But I did manage to find out that a certain Mr. Roland Chauvin (1922-2016) lived there with his wife Rolande and I did find a bit more about them on local news websites that were easier to translate.
When I started my research several years ago my search ended here, there just wasn’t more on the internet on the subject back then, but when my fellow fake history hunter Ernst and I picked the case up again a few months ago we discovered new information that cracked the case, mostly thanks to a Facebook photo contest held by Ouest France Argentan.
Through these articles and that contest we found out that it was built in 1955 and decorated by Mr. Chauvin in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Chauvin was quite an impressive gentleman, like his father before him, e was a saddler but also an upholsterer and generally a very talented craftsman who kept busy till his death age 94.
He was born in Argentan, not far from where he lived and he was so talented he worked on several castles in Western Normandy and was especially proud of the mattress he built for the bed that Queen Elizabeth slept on during her visit to Château de Sassy.
He loved doing his work and was always busy, but he wasn’t always a good businessman, he was too kind and sometimes “forgot” to send a bill.
But he was popular and was even elected to the Municipal Council.

Roland Chauvin, picture via Ouest France

In 1944 Mr, Chauvin and his sister Denise were in their 20s and lived through the heavy bombing of their town, their father rushed the family away from the centre and digging a trench for everybody to hide in that he then covered up with earth and logs.
Their family home was completely destroyed and their town turned into what they called “a butcher’s shop”, as it was littered with dead soldiers, the sight caused Denise to have nightmares for years.
They moved into a temporary home, built out of items they found laying around and eventually the town was rebuild.
We know Mr. Chauvin loved making things and was very creative, unfortunately we can only guess why he decided to make his house look the way it turned out, but it is glorious and I bet he would have been so proud to learn how many people were fooled by it.

The lady in the window is probably Mrs. Chauvin.


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Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to these images, I only share them here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.

If the copyright owner objects to the sharing here, kindly contact me and I shall alter the article.
If you’re interested in using any of the images here get in touch with the copyright owners mentioned in the article.
Feel free to contact me with questions.

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