Ferdinand Cheval was a French postman in the late 1800s. He was also a sculptor and an architect and probably some sort of , though he probably wouldn't have described himself as thus. Working nights after his postal shift for the next thirty-three years, Cheval created this structure of naive art architecture. When he finished this “Palais Ideale”, he was in his seventies, but that didn't stop him. When the law prohibited that he be buried in his palace, he then went to work decorating his own mausoleum in the town cemetery.
The legend is that it all started with one interesting rock that Cheval stumbled across along his postal route in 1879. "Inspired by its shape, he began collecting more small stones each day. At first he would carry home the pebbles he found on his mail rounds in his pockets, but as he began collecting more, he started carrying them home in baskets, and eventually a wheelbarrow." The palace is made of these found rocks, cement and lime mortar. He is quoted as saying "I wanted to prove what willpower can achieve."
The palace is still standing and is a cultural landmark in France. It has over 100,000 visitors a year and is certainly on my list should I ever get to France. It even got its own stamp in 1984. Thanks to Carolee for the tip and for the excellent write up at Messy Nessy and the New York Times for the information.