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Oct 24, 2022 / 11:08

Fresh look for Hanoi's unique hundred-year-old monument

Standing impassively by Hanoi's iconic Hoan Kiem Lake for over a century, the Toad Fountain will soon celebrate its new look.

In the center of Hanoi - the heart of the whole country - lies a small garden that has existed for more than 100 years. Both the people of Hanoi and those who chose to settle in the city have more or less heard the name Dien Hong Park or Vuon hoa Con Coc (Toad Flower Garden).

The timeless charm of Toad Flower Garden in Hanoi. Photo: Afamily

Although not massive or fanciful, the garden is surrounded by rich French architecture, such as the State Bank of Vietnam, the State Guest House, the former Hotel Métropole Hanoi, and many others.

The Toad Flower Garden is currently undergoing renovations, and there were memorable stories about it in its centuries-old history. In 1936, the famous comedian Charlie Chaplin and his newlywed wife - Hollywood movie star Paulette Goddard- walked hand in hand in this flower garden, admiring the romantic streets with ancient French buildings in the area. 

It is also said that the stone shaft in the middle of the Toad Flower Garden used to contain the remains of Deputy Governor General of Indochina Leson Jean Laurent Chavassieux (1848 - 1895). Today, the Toad Flower Garden is not only an ideal place for Hanoians to practice morning exercise but also a place where many cultural activities take place.

Because of the unique feature of four toads spraying water around, people often call it the “Toad Flower Garden” rather than “Dien Hong Park”. After 121 years of existence, the oldest fountain of Hanoi still retains its beauty.

Over the years, the Toad Flower Garden, especially the central fountain, has always been a nostalgic corner, attracting many people to visit, take photos, exercise, and have fun.  After renovation, this place will be charming "like a toad" again by late 2022.

A French-Vietnamese cooperation project to preserve Hanoi's heritage


Over time, the monument has degraded, so it has been bound with steel straps to preserve its structure.

There are small cracks on the top of the stone pillars, while the surrounding steel straps have also rusted, affecting the aesthetics of the monument.

Through inconsistent maintenance projects of the flower garden over a century, some items have peeled off or subsided, with a cocktail of various pavers such as “coconut-leaf” bricks, block bricks and stones.

Hanoi authority affirmed that the “treasure of the capital” would be renovated thoroughly to protect the valuable heritage work, which is Hanoi's oldest fountain, and ensure visitors' safety.

The tourist attraction in Hanoi is now under renovation. Photo: Jenna Duong 

Recently, Hoan Kiem District People's Committee and PRX Institute - Representative of IIe-de-France Region (France) in Vietnam, in cooperation with De-So Asia Design Consultant JSC, has set up "Project of Public Space Planning and Ecological Green Space Management in Hoan Kiem District", drawing up the design of the project to be implemented in 85 days.

Currently, work on the renovation of the Toad Flower Garden is underway.

Emmanuel Cerise, director of the Paris-based Agency for International Cooperation in Vietnam, stated that the agency would provide professional assistance for Hoan Kiem District in the renovation of the landscape quality of this public space.

He said the sidewalks and walkways would be paved with 30x30 granite tiles, accompanied by green grass and additional trees and lighting. Meanwhile, the Toad Fountain area will be kept in its original state.

In addition, the rainwater permeability of the Dien Hong Garden's soil will improve due to the renovation, which is both environmentally friendly and climate change-resilient.

To create a safer distance between the playground in the garden and the surrounding traffic routes, the park will also be surrounded by low-rise green fences.

The French built the gorgeous stonework in the 18th century in Hanoi. Photo: Jenna Duong

Nicolas Warnery, French ambassador to Vietnam, shared with The Hanoi Times that the project is one of the works to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations and ten years of strategic partnership between France and Vietnam, which will take place in 2023.

“We strongly support Hanoi in preserving cultural heritages. These works are not only historically significant but also help attract tourists,” he stated.

“Cooperative projects to preserve cultural heritage underway in recent years have brought practical benefits to the people of Hanoi capital,” he added.

Some Franco-Vietnamese conservation projects have been carried out by Hanoi in recent years, including the pavement renovation project around Hoan Kiem Lake; the ongoing renovation project of the old villa located at the corner of Tran Hung Dao - Hang Bai in the Hoan Kiem district, among others.

The ambassador also expected larger-scale and more methodical restoration projects to be implemented in the future. “We have worked with the Hanoi People’s Committee on the conservation project of Long Bien Bridge - the iconic monument of Hanoi,” he said.

The memorial was worth 3,250 silver coins

One among the toads in the Toad fountain at Dien Hong Park, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi.

The Toad Flower Garden or Chavassieux Flower Garden, covering an area of 4,488 square meters, was built by the French in memory of Léon Jean Laurent Chavassieux (1848-1895), deputy governor-general of Indochina at the time.

To find the perfect design, the French held a competition in 1897 at 3,250 piastres (Indochinese currency). Accordingly, the structure in the middle of the Chavassieux Flower Garden was designed by architect Harlay and built by contractor Guillaume.

Today, surrounding the Toad Flower Garden is the intersection of Ngo Quyen, Le Thach and Ly Thai To streets. In the book “Hanoi in the First Half of the Twentieth Century” by Nguyen Van Uan, this area is also mentioned as a quarter with ​​many high-level public agencies.

When it was first opened in 1901, the area around the central structure used to be called Square Chavassieux. In 1945, it was renamed Dien Hong Park (the garden’s official name).

A unique structure in the heart of the capital

The fountain has deteriorated, requiring it to be wrapped with iron wire to preserve its structure. Photo: Afamily 

In the center of the flower garden sits a circular fountain surrounding a large square-cylindrical stone pillar about 3.5 meters high. This memorial was inspired by Romanesque architecture with the typical Ionic order.

The most recognizable feature of the order around the stone memorial is that there are two volutes (spiral ornament) in the capital of each column. The shallow grooves that only run along the body of the columns are the telltale signs of the Doric order. This classic order, used for its strong and sturdy appearance, is also commonly found in European temples devoted to ancient male gods.

Because of the unique feature of four toads spraying water around, people often call it the “Toad Flower Garden” rather than “Dien Hong Park”. After 121 years of existence, the oldest fountain of Hanoi still retains its beauty.

Over the years, the Toad Flower Garden, especially the central fountain, has always been a nostalgic corner, attracting many people to visit, take photos, exercise, and have fun.  After renovation, this place will be charming "like a toad" again by late 2022.