An integral part of the royal estate of Versailles, Chèvreloup is a both a natural and landscaped area covering more than 200 hectares and managed by the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (French National Museum of Natural History).
A long, rich history
The history of Chèvreloup is associated with the park and palace of Versailles. Louis XIV directed that the hamlet and its lands be included in the park at the end of the 17th century in order to extend the hunting grounds and divert water to the palace’s fountains.
The Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle took possession of the estate at the beginning of the 20th century to develop collections of plants to complement those of the Jardin des Plantes (botanical gardens) in Paris. The first botanic planting was organised according to a vast plan in the French style. Starting in the 1960s new sections of the park were established as a scientific arboretum following a plan of natural planting.
13th century – For the first time, the existence of a hamlet called Chèvreloup (Capra Lupi) is attested in a compendium of charters transcribing property titles (the cartulary of Notre Dame de Paris cathedral).
1680 – At the behest of Louis XIV, construction of the Chèvreloup reservoir commences. This great reservoir and the pipes that were constructed supply water for the Trianon fountains.
1685 - Chèvreloup plain is included in the Petit Parc (small park) of Versailles to extend the royal hunting grounds and to divert its waters to the palace’s fountains. The whole of the Petit Parc is soon surrounded by a boundary wall and Chèvreloup hamlet and its chapel are destroyed, but farmers continue to manage the countryside to supply the hunt.
1759 - Under Louis XV, the noted botanist Bernard de Jussieu creates a small botanical garden at Trianon, an estate neighbouring Chèvreloup. This disappears at the end of the 18th century.
1797 – Under the Directoire, many properties are sold to private owners, among them a parcel of Chèvreloup lands.
1810 – The estate is bought back by Napoleon to reconstruct the Petit Parc of Versailles. The lands are rented to tenant farmers.
1848 – To the southeast of Chèvreloup, a nursery belonging to Trianon is created as well as the first landscaping along an English-style avenue of which only a sophora survives until the 20th century.
1848-1852 – The National Agronomic Institute is founded in Versailles, and granted lands of 1,500 ha, including the Chèvreloup estate then comprising fields of 50 ha and arable land of 150 ha. The institute is dissolved after five years and Chèvreloup again rented to tenant farmers.
1921 – The estate is assigned to the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle to develop a large botanical garden, called “Jussieu Garden” as an annex to the Jardin des Plantes, which lacks space in the capital. Désiré Bois, a professor at the Muséum, establishes the project for collections of trees, shrubs, rose bushes, herbaceous plants, fruit trees... and François-Benjamin Chaussemiche, architect of Versailles estate, designs a French-style landscape for it.
1922 – Establishment of the first landscaping of Jussieu Garden and the beginning of planting. Only the conifer collections and great rows of trees, essentially in the southeast ¼ of the estate, are planted before the Second World War.
1927 – The publication of an official decree assigns the Chèvreloup estate to the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle.
1940 – During the Second World War, 2,000 family garden plots are allotted to the inhabitants of Versailles who are dying of hunger. Due to the difficulty of obtaining fodder, herbivores from the Paris zoo are put to pasture there sometime around 1945. Many plants are lost. A difficult period follows with an almost complete suspension of activity at Jussieu Garden.
1960 –The Muséum undertakes the development of the estate, renamed Chèvreloup Arboretum and based on a scientific arboretum project. A new landscaping plan, freer and more natural, with new paths and a pond (dug in 1975), is outlined between 1964 and 1966.
1965 - Georges Callen, engineer at the Muséum, establishes a planting plan grouping species of trees according to their geographical origins. Plantings are undertaken (several hundred specimens per year until today).
1969 – Horticultural greenhouses are installed to produce plants for the beds at the Jardin des Plantes.
1979 - Construction of the welcome pavilion and opening of 50 ha of the Arboretum to the public.
1985 - Construction of new greenhouses to house the tropical collections lacking space at the Jardin des Plantes.
1999 – A hurricane on 26 December knocks down many old trees, with only the 1848 sophora spared from the 19th century plantings, (saved thanks to a stump shoot in 2002). The loveliest rows of trees from the old Jussieu Garden remain and the first plantings from after 1965 reach maturity.
2018 – Opening of the entire estate to visitors.