The Château de Saulxures – Abandoned and in Despair

The Château de Saulxures, known as the Vosges Versailles or the little Versailles, built under the Second Empire from 1854 to 1861 on the plans of the architect Charles Perron, is located rue de la Gare, in Saulxures-sur-Moselotte in the Vosges.
Its construction was commissioned by Élisabeth Géhin, née Mathieu, widow of Jean-Thiébaut Géhin, the first textile industrialist in the commune, during the golden age of the textile industry and the industrial expansion of this part of the Vosges in the 19th century. , in homage to her prematurely deceased husband. It is now abandoned and had even been threatened with demolition.

The industrialization of the Moselotte valley is essentially marked by Jean-Thiébaut Géhin, born in 1796 in Ventron. He created in 1825, in Saulxures-sur-Moselotte, the first mechanical spinning mill with a hydraulic motor in the arrondissement of Remiremont2 before disappearing prematurely at the age of 46, after having been mayor and general councilor of the canton during his last twelve years. .

Numérisation de la carte postale 000004943 de la bmi Epinal-Golbey

Numérisation de la carte postale 000004943 de la bmi Epinal-Golbey
The construction of the château by his widow, Élizabeth, and the fact that she spent nearly 2,000,000 francs on this work, whereas in 1861, her two spinning mills had a value of 1,150,000 F and the two weavings a value of 501,000 F bears witness to this prosperous period of textiles.

Jean Thiébaut Géhin was indeed considered as one of the industrialists having contributed the most in France, by the beauty of the fabric which he made manufacture, to establish the reputation of the calicos4 of the Vosges.

As the association Les Amis du château de Saulxures-sur-Moselotte5,6 reminds us, “The dimensions, architecture and decoration are of high quality: marquetry parquet flooring, large Carrara marble fireplaces, sumptuous staircases, painted ceilings by Félix Haffner, multiple sculptures, monumental tapestries, nothing was too good for the construction of this Louis XV style building, created by the greatest artists of the time.

Anachro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The house of Jeanselme Père et Fils7, supplier of furniture to the Crown Louis-Philippe I and Napoleon III8 furnished the château.

The gates, works of Desforges, Brochon and the Festugières brothers were copies of those of Place Stanislas in Nancy. Better still, they opened onto a porch flanked by four splendid atlanteans and caryatids in the central avant-corps, immortalizing the four seasons, works of the sculptor Georges Clère, one of the decorators of Napoleon III’s new Louvre9,10”.

In addition, the prototypes of the caryatids in plaster are preserved in the Louvre11 while the originals have not been preserved.

Originally, two large windows connected the main building to the two outbuildings.

Passed down to subsequent generations, visited by Thiers and De Gaulle, the castle was finally abandoned in 1972. “The restoration and maintenance costs had become staggering,” explained its owner, François Vandamme, a few years ago.

René Dinkel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There have been a few takeover projects, but none have come to fruition. And today, the building, listed but unlisted, is definitely unrecoverable. The roof collapsed, the ceilings too. The cold, the rain have done their dirty work. The grids have disappeared. Looting and vandalism took over. Even the books of the imposing library ended up in the dump truck of a paper mill!

A few years ago, faced with this degradation, the town hall had to issue a danger order, forcing the owner to close access to the site. Later, the National Commission for Historic Monuments gave its agreement for demolition “provided that the sculptures of Georges Clève are preserved”. Since then, nothing has happened. Demolition is expensive and its owner clearly does not want to devote himself to it. The agony of the castle could therefore last a few more years.

René Dinkel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The facades, roofs and outbuildings of the castle are listed as historical monuments, by decree of December 21, 198412

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