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The Vagaries of a Mansion of the Eighteenth Century

The history of the area Plonjon known today as “Parc des Eaux-Vives” perfectly illustrates the changes undergone by the Geneva countryside from the second half of the seventeenth century. Multiple fragmented groupings that occur at this time in fact lead to the creation of important land areas where prestigious houses were implanted.

Usually built near old rural buildings, these new houses will evolve significantly during the 18th century. From a compact shape and somewhat austere first buildings will gradually substitute more spacious residences, conform to classical models imported from France.

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Parc des Eaux Vives

Where it all began...

Located in a green surrounding, mid slope between the “plateau de Frontenex” and the lake, the castle des Eaux-Vives embodies this type of residence. The strict symmetry of its composition and the apparent homogeneity of its facades might suggest that it was built in one stage around 1750. Neverthless, examination of archival documents suggests that the house has been built in two stages separated by a fifty years period. The core of the building, or the current central part, have been built in the early eighteenth century, probably around 1710 at the time the area belonged to the Tremblay family. This layout has been maintained by the banker named Bouer, then by his son who were owners between 1714 and 1760. According to a panoramic drawing of Robert Gardelle, executed around 1720, the mansion in the foreground appears as a compact block made of five-bay facade. High hipped roof overcomes unique building body of a floor on the ground floor. A farmhouse built in 1658-1660, now disappeared use to be a dependency.
Parc des Eaux Vives

In April 1760, the property was acquired by Jean-Jacques Horneca who was a trader. Newly owner, he decided to transform the mansion by adding side wings, and therefore created independent attic ogee curved at the corners. The result given by the shape of the roof gives the building a picturesque silhouette, unusual in the Geneva area. Small roofs ” Imperial style” which give the building the look of a corner towers, is the most striking element. They are probably inspired by the Franche-Comté steeples. There is a similar treatment of the wings at the castle of “La Roche-sur-Loue” in “Arc-et-Senans” (Doubs, France). Once the volume increased, the house has been given a unified architectural decoration, such as to ensure it a new cohesion: chain boss and table, pediments, cords and window frames. Note that the approach chosen by Horneca to expand his home by adding two lateral wings was not an isolated practice in the Geneva context. The castle of Voltaire in “Ferney- Voltaire” and the Reposoir in Pregny, both transformed in the second half of the eighteenth century, are also good examples. In all three cases, the purpose was to adapt the building to aesthetic models in vogue and sophistication of modern comfort, tangible reflection of the owner’s aspirations.
Parc des Eaux Vives

In the 19th century, the castle often changed hands, passing successively to Archer, Senn, Grevedon-Bousquet families, before being bought by the manufacturer of the Gotthard Tunnel, the engineer Louis Favre. His daughter sold it in 1896 to the “Société de l’Industrie des Hôtels” which installs a luxury restaurant. A first covered terrace, partly glazed, is then settled on both sides of the building: it will be replaced by the current veranda in 1913, when all is acquired by the commune des Eaux-Vives.
Parc des Eaux Vives

If the outside of the “castle” still has most of its eighteenth century aspect, it is lot different for the inside. Indeed, two major refurbishment campaigns, one in 1923-1924 after the fire of the roofs and the other one in 1961-1963 profoundly alter the distribution of origin, wiping out almost all of the former decor. One of the few survivors of these operations is the beautiful vaulted gallery of the right wing, created during the expansion of the house in 1760 and offering a neo-baroque cornice from the end of the 19th century.
Parc des Eaux Vives

The most recent transformations, carried out after the burning of the roofs in 1999, eliminated the small 18th century apartment on the first floor of the right wing. It is since the very large work completed in 2003 that the establishment has assumed the appearance that is now well known to the Geneva landscape.