The 2.2-hectare village of Baudin, located in the eastern commune of Toulouse-le-Château near the Swiss border, recently popped up in the “for sale” section on the French online auction website Agorastore as well as on classified ads website Le Bon Coin.
The potential sale has stirred up some emotion among locals, however, who want assurances that a new owner will work to protect the more than 220-year-old hamlet's history.
The property is crammed with remnants from France’s industrial past and comes complete with a presbytery, a fountain, a number of worker lodgings and shops – most of them built in the 19th century.
“It's part of the Jura region's cultural, religious and artistic history,” Albert Wolff, a Baudin museum guide and secretary of the association which has been in charge of taking care of the property in the past few years, told The Local.
Once a flourishing village known for its production of stoves and ovens, Baudin was largely abandoned after its last forging factory closed down in 1959.
“Two hundred people used to live here,” Wolff said, “now there are only two.”
Local authorities bought the village in 2013 in the hope of transforming it into a popular tourist spot, but the restoration costs and the region’s increasingly strained finances finally forced them to put Baudin back on the auction block this year.
But not everyone is happy about the upcoming auction, including Wolff himself.
“No one aside from the decision-makers was told that Baudin was being put up for sale, we found out via an ad posted on Le Bon Coin,” he said, adding many are now worried that a new owner might decide to tear some of the historic buildings down.
There seems to be few takers for Baudin at the moment though, with Le Parisien reporting that only a Belgian investor has shown interest so far.
Starting out at €150,000, the hamlet will be sold to the highest bidder at a five-day auction that starts on May 23.
There is just one catch attached to the small price tag, and it's not a small one: restoration costs are estimated at around €20 million and annual utility fees at about €250,000.