Phenomenal destiny for the small and humble fishing village from the beginning of the 19th century! This exceptional destiny is inscribed in the stone of these beautiful mansions with different styles, from the baroque, exotic, rococo, to the art-deco, which have been built on the heights and around the city center.
1/ Villa Marie-Thérèse – Villa Béatrice – Avenue du Docteur Picaud
Built by the dowager Baroness Rothschild around 1881, the Villa Marie-Thérèse and its annex the villa Béatrice had been occupied by the members of the family of the Baron Alphonse, the Barons Edouard Maurice and Philippe up until the second world war. The villa has become property of the city and today houses the Médiathèque Jean de Noailles.
2/ Castle of the Croix des Gardes- Boulevard Leader
The purchaser of the 50 hectares of bush, and rocky grounds at the top of the Croix des Gardes was named Paul Girod. Born in Switzerland, he was at the head of the electrical company of the Forges and Acieries in Ugine. At the end of the First World War, he built on his land this castle which was called the Castle of the Croix des Gardes. Construction lasted three years from 1919 to 1921. The facade was of Florentine style, and around the building, on thirteen acres were created real hanging gardens. Paul Girod was President of the Royal Regattas and presided over the destinies of the automobile club de Cannes.
3/ Castle Eléonore – Avenue du Dr. Picaud
Eight days after his arrival in Cannes, Lord Brougham, the Grand Chancellor of Great Britain, had acquired for the very modest price of 13500 francs a large field on the road to Frejus which has since become the avenue du Dr. Picaud. He built a sumptuous residence to which he gave the name of his daughter Eléonore. The historian Jules Bertaut describes it this way: “a peristyle of elegant ionic order preceded the facade exposed at noon, at the base of a wooded hillside. The columns supported a terrace on which was the first floor apartment with beautiful views of the sea and the mountain. The aisles were rising in gentle slope down to the wood “.
4/ Villa Fiesole which became Villa Jean Gabriel Domergue – Avenue Fiesole
The painter Jean Gabriel Domergue sought land in Cannes on which he could build a mansion as he had seen in Fiesole, a beautiful city close to Florence. In 1936 he had a house warming: “My husband designed all of the plans of the villa, said Madam Domergue herself talented sculptor) …those of the house of dependencies, but also of the gardens and all the interiors, up to the chandeliers that he had drawn and had them done by the glassmakers of Murano “.
The villa is breathtaking by its proportions of a harmonious size, huge rooms with very high ceilings, and the furniture is of a rare refinement. It is the luxurious house of a Prince of the Renaissance and in these places Jean Gabriel Domergue and his wife have given during many years dazzling feasts and receptions. A painter of women exclusively, it is in the workshop of the Villa Fiesole where the most elegant and beautiful women served as models for him such as Gina Lollobrigida, Brigitte Bardot, Mylène Demongeot … and so many others.
5/ Villa Fiorentina
In his book “La Côte d’Azur” published in the last century, Stephen Liegeard writes about the Fiorentina: ” it is an ample Italian palazzo with frescoes galleries, with polished carrara marble stairs, and with a vibrant Florentine which is its radius of poetry, Sir Julian Goldsmid seems to have raised a few memories of the homeland from Tuscany”. At the Florentine, the marble benches are arranged harmoniously in an admirable cypress alley. There is a cloister where each column is in a different stone. During the fragmentation of the huge field, following the settlement of the succession, the chapel was acquired by well known painter Emmanuel Bellini, who made his workshop. The Florentine-style-baroque chapel is most certainly the only private chapel of this importance on the French Riviera.
6/ Villa Kazbeck – Avenue King Albert
It is in this sumptuous residence, built on the first slopes of the Californie, where lived His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michel Michailovitch, uncle of Tsar Nicholas II, and his morganatic wife the Countess of Torby, grand-daughter of Pouchkine. The hosts of the villa have welcomed the most illustrious persons coming for winter such as the King Edward VII, the King of Sweden, and the princes of Nassau. From 1895 to 1914, the Grand Duke Michel and his very lovely wife came every year to the Villa Kazbeck whose name evokes one of the highest peaks of the Caucasus.
7/ Castle Scott – Avenue du Maréchal Juin
In a huge park sloping down to the sea, the Honorable Michel Hugues Scott, inventor of the emulsion Scott with cod-liver oil, built a mansion in the purest style made in Highlands, from the flamboyant gothic with crenel towers and bartizan, rosettes, and small cloister. These places inspired Marcel L’Herbier in 1931 who shot the talking version of the movie “The Mystery of the Yellow Room” and another film “Quasimodo” which was also shot in the Castle Scott.
8/ Palais Vallombrosa – Avenue Jean de Noailles
In 1858, the Chateau des Tours built by Sir Thomas Robinson Woolfieds, was bought by the Duke of Vallombrosa. The castle in spite of its style a bit baroque, had a fine figure on the steep rocks of the vallon du Riou. The Duke was in a few months a real leader of life in Cannes. Soon at the Chateau des Tours the most selected members of the colony would gather there. Famous artists stayed there such as the Count and the Countess of Paris, Marshal Mac Mahon and Charles Gounod who would perform his last pieces of music.
9/ Villa Victoria – Avenue du Docteur Picaud
Splendid Park of the Villa Victoria is where the flora was admired at that time by the botanists, being even cited in example to English amateurs by the “Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener”. Sir Woolfield had built Villa Victoria in 1860, and also acquired at a bargain price a few tens of hectares in the vicinity of the villa; he divided his property into lots of various sizes that he sold quickly to English friends. In 1869, he welcomed at the Villa Victoria, the Royal Princess of Prussia, future empress. He was the first owner of the first tennis court in the garden of the villa. He built very near from his villa, the first Anglican church in Cannes.
Today, you can visit some of these beautiful mansions. The Villa Fiesole, the Villa Marie-Thérèse (nowadays Jean de Noailles) which houses the Cannes Médiathèque where many events are organized, the Villa Jean Gabriel Domergue, today a place for receptions, exhibits, festivals, the Villa Fiorentina and the Chapel Bellini.
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