The “Villa Algérienne” and its Chapel on the Cap-Ferret peninsula …

Léon Lesca, from Teste de Buch, obtained from Napoleon III the contract to build the port of Algiers, among others.

Back in France, he bought at public auction with his brother, a property in the Ferret peninsula, the eastern half of the forest. He then became the owner of a domain from Claouey to Bélisaire.

In 1865-1866, he had a Moorish style villa built on this land, a primitive hunting lodge, which later became a sumptuous villa, in an oriental style, in memory of the many years spent in Algeria.

At that time, Cap Ferret had very few inhabitants: the keepers of the lighthouse, some customs officers and forest guards. There were no roads or paths, and the nearest village, “Lèges”, was 15 km away. Everything arrived by boat from Arcachon.

The villa became the command post of the vast estate.

Léon Lesca, an innovator in many fields, exploited the forest, oyster farms, created fish tanks (Piraillan), planted vineyards (hence the name of vineyard port “La Vigne”), built a school, the Bélisaire pier, and accommodation for the staff.

Around the villa, in a 25 hectare park, he planted rare species, he was the one who first brought the “Youcca” and the “Mimosa” into the country.

Léon Lesca was also manager of the Steam Company “Le Courrier du Cap”, a boat that crossed Arcachon – Cap Ferret carrying passengers and food for the staff in place.

He died in 1913. The rest of the story was very sad for this magnificent residence, which owned jointly by the children, was left to be abandoned. The villa was requisitioned in 1940 by the Germans. The abandoned garden became a huge jungle invaded by vines and brambles.

The heir, designated later, who was living in Morocco and did not want to burden himself with such a responsibility, sold the estate to hoteliers who in turn sold it to developers who quickly took charge of its demolition, to build a concrete block that can still be seen.

In 1966, the housekeeper of the Lesca family, devastated to see the house massacred in this way, called on the then “ORTF” to come and report on this sacrilege (video archive on La Villa Algérienne).

There is only the “Algerian villa chapel” left, which you can visit. The chapel was built about twenty years later, in 1885, under the orders of Mr. Lesca.

There was no place of worship on the Ferret peninsula. With the nearest church being 15 km away, the children were forced to go to Mass in Arcachon by boat, which was not safe on some days. Léon Lesca, with his own money, had the chapel built on the Villa’s estate. In 1885, he obtained from the President of the Republic, Mr. Jules Grévy, the authorization to celebrate services in this neo-Moorish chapel, built by Eugène Ormières.

Catherine Migeon