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Landmark Paris Mansion Is Damaged By Fire

Paris' historic Hotel Lambert, once home to the likes of Voltaire and Chopin, was partly damaged by fire early Wednesday.

The BBC reports that the 17th century structure lost a section of its roof and a central staircase and saw water and smoke damage to celebrated fresco paintings by Charles Le Brun, who also designed the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Paris Deputy Mayor Anne Hidalgo says the mansion has suffered "serious damage," according to The Associated Press.

The Lambert was built in the 1640s on the Ile Saint-Louis, the island that's now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building once belonged to the Rothschild family, which turned it into a group of apartments for friends. The mansion decayed over time, suffering cracks, mold and other damage, notes The New York Times (subscription required).

In 2007, it was purchased by a relative of the former emir of Qatar, who intended to renovate it with elevators, air conditioning and an underground parking garage. This triggered lawsuits and angered locals, including one who said the work would turn the Lambert into a "monstrosity with the aesthetics of a James Bond villa," reports The Guardian. But a truce was reached, and restoration work began in 2010.

The fire broke out just as the renovation work was nearly finished and took nearly six hours to douse. Fire service spokesman Lt. Col. Pascal le Testu tells euronews that one reason the fire was difficult to fight is because "the building is undergoing renovations, so there are a lot of hazardous materials in there, such as acetylene bottles."

He says there will be a thorough review of the condition of the renowned artwork inside.

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