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[Photos] The Neo-Baroque Opulence of the Norodom Palace in Its Heyday

In today’s Saigon, the Independence Palace is best-known as a sleepy tourist attraction, nestled in the middle of a green oasis in District 1.

While the building’s interior in recent years seems surprisingly modest for the title “palace,” not many know that the current structure is completely different than the one built in the late 19th century which was indeed an exercise in ostentatious opulence.

The photos in this collection show the original Independence Palace’s inside furnishings throughout the 1920s, when it was known by the name Norodom Palace – after the then king of Cambodia. From elaborate columns to detailed carpets to elegant chandeliers, the inside of the palace reflected the original architect’s neo-Baroque influence.

During French colonial time, on February 23, 1868, Admiral-Governor Pierre-Paul de la Grandiere laid the first stone on the site of a new colonial government headquarters in Saigon, according to historian Tim Doling.

Beaux arts-trained architect Georges l’Hermitte was tasked with designing the massive Palais du Gouvernement-General, as it was known during the time of its first resident, Admiral-Governor Dupre, in 1873. The palace’s time as a residential building was short-lived, however, as subsequent political reshufflings turned it into a ceremonial venue and seasonal office for the Governor-General – who was then based in Hanoi – whenever he visited the southern city.

Governor-General Paul Doumer wrote in his journal in 1905: “When we arrived there in 1897, the palace felt like it was abandoned since it had been left for 10 years. This was because the Governor-General, always based in Tonkin which he administered, no longer lived in Cochinchina other than by exception, in passing and for just a few days.”

Flash forward a few decades to 1962, when the Norodom Palace was heavily bombed by two AD6 aircraft. The remaining structure was eventually demolished altogether to make room for its modern version as we know today as the Independence Palace.

Have a tour of the inside of the luxurious Norodom Palace in its heyday below:

[Photos via Flickr user manhhai]

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