This is the second in a new series of posts covering the rich history of Carouge, one of Geneva’s most fascinating neighborhoods. This series is authored by B, an AIWC member and resident of Carouge who is obsessed with history, languages, and winter sports.
II. If You Build It They Will Come
Whatever significance Quadruvium had enjoyed, Carouge in 1754 was not a prestigious address. It consisted of a dirt road (la rue Ancienne) that connected the Rondeau to the banks of the Arve, where there was no longer a bridge, and then zig zagged along the border to a wooden bridge which served the road to Lancy, at Acacias. The rue Ancienne was primarily renowned for the immoral character of its dozen or so establishments. The property now situated at a strange angle at Place des Charmettes was the Auberge des Trois Rois established in 1710 on the path to Lancy, for a total inventory of 18 structures. In fine Savoy tradition, the first new construction was the Customs House at the Savoy-Geneva border on the approach to the bridge, completed in 1755. Following no particular plan or policy, by 1765 the number of buildings had climbed to 87, most constructed along the notorious rue Ancienne. The Secretary of State Humbert Bruel was inspired by this spontaneous settlement, and wrote to King Charles Emmanuel III with some suggestions for the future development of Carouge:
- The territory of Carouge, now belonging entirely to Savoy, is ready for the establishment of a city; this city will grow quickly in population, buildings, and production to the point of competing with Geneva, which is so crowded, it will itself contribute to this growth.
- For this, you must authorize foreigners to own land and the Protestants to become established; control the development with a compulsory plan; give the city a special status with special privileges; make it the capital.
- The result would be to stimulate commerce in Savoy, giving it an internal market, independent of the price fluctuations determined by Geneva.
The Bishop of Annecy felt that the first step should be the building of a church, since the morality of Carouge’s citizens was routinely called into question. The royal governor Foassa-Friot seconded the Bishop, and also insisted that the town needed a bi-weekly market and some semi-annual trading fairs. In August of 1771, the king approved the construction of the church, its presbytery and gave the order to draw up plans for a totally new kind of city.
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