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Introduction – Carouge, saucy charm

A touch of Greenwich Village, an air of mystery inspired by the Marais in Paris and a pinch of Mediterranean color: a unique mixture for a unique city.
Separated from Geneva by the Arve, a peaceful river at times tumultuous, Carouge inspires idle wandering and gentle reverie. Small town houses, some opening on intriguing courtyards of hidden greenery, give the city its Mediterranean atmosphere.

Royal City - and an air of freedomCarouge was founded by Victor-Amédée III, King of Piedmont-Sardinia, a descendant of the Dukes of Savoy and predecessor of the future kings of Italy. Having coveted Geneva for a long time hoping to make it its capital one day, Savoy had to resign itself to recognizing the independence of Geneva following the embarrassing defeat of the Escalade in 1602 and the Treaty of Turin in 1603. Victory-Amédée III opted then for a different strategy: to found another town at the gates of Geneva, just on the other side of the Arve, to compete with its powerful neighbor. He called upon architects from Turin, then capital of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, to build the new town. The little hamlet, which then comprised 17 houses, metamorphosed rapidly into a small town of extraordinary unity and harmonious architecture. Declared a “Royal City” in 1786, blessed with two weekly markets, Carouge grew rapidly in population, which was not exactly a coincidence as Victor-Amédée III strongly wished his new city to eclipse Geneva. He didn’t hesitate to abolish all the toll gates on Savoy soil to encourage travelers and merchants to stay in Carouge instead of crossing the Arve and paying the toll to enter Geneva. He also showed an avant-garde religious tolerance in permitting the installation of a large Jewish colony with its synagogue, as well as authorizing a Protestant pastor to minister in Carouge despite the city being Catholic. This little fresh air of freedom incited numerous Geneva Protestants, subjected to the austere rules of the Consistory, a veritable tribunal charged with ruling on all questions of faith and morals, to head for Carouge to dance, sing and drink their fill, all forbidden on the other side of the Arve.

Carouge – yesterday and today

The French Revolution put an end to this expansion. The Sardinian city became the capital of the Department of Mont-Blanc, and subsequently joined the 36 Communes Réunies (united townships) attached to the Canton of Geneva in 1815, following the decision at the Congress of Vienna. This decision didn’t seem to please the inhabitants of Carouge, still loyal to their King, as they continued for a long time to close their shutters on the Swiss national holiday. Today the party spirit has returned to inhabitants of the Sardinian city. Of the “Catholic Carouge”, there still exists a joie de vivre and a conviviality, which the number of picturesque restaurants wouldn’t contradict.

Key Dates

Sigismond was crowned King of the Burgundians in the center of “Quadruvium”, meaning crossroads, which is possibly the origin of the name Carouge.

Carouge was a hamlet of 20 houses. The majority of the terraine was reserved for cultivating grain and wine, the rest left as pasture.

The Treaty of Turin of June 15th drew a new border between the Republic of Geneva and the Kingdom of Sardinia of Charles-Emmanuel III (1730 – 1773). The Genevese habitually sought diversion in Carouge. In 1758, Voltaire’s ”La femme qui a raison” was staged. Smuggling was rife between Geneva and the Savoy.

Numerous Piedmont architects worked on the “invention” of Carouge. Five master plans followed one another, trying to contain the exuberant growth of the town. Victor-Amédée III (1773 – 1796) wanted to develop Carouge to compete with Geneva. The Savoyard village became little by little a Sardinian town. A propos Sardinia, history tells us that in the camp of the winners at the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Victor-Amédée II received the crown of Sicily, which he exchanged for the crown of Sardinia. From then until the Proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, the territory of the House of Savoy was called Kingdom of Sardinia or of Piedmont-Sardinia, or even Sardinian States, with Turin as the capital.

The founding charters accorded Carouge two annual fairs and one weekly market. These charters as well as the coat of arms of the city are seen on the monument at the Place (square) de l’Octroi.

The city counted 1190 inhabitants and 118 houses.

Protestants were authorized to have church services at home.

On the 31st of January, Victor-Amédée III granted Carouge the title of Royal City. The city received a coat of arms: a lion, the incarnation of royal power, sleeping at the feet of a vigorous tree, the young agglomeration which it protected. With the power of Carouge’s imagination, the lion was transformed into a leopard (the city has its “Leopard Association” with 40 members, and its “Leopard City” at Les Moraines). The tree, a heraldic oak, has become a carob tree.

By a remarkable decree, the King tolerated Jews in Carouge, while they were constrained to reside in ghettos in the rest of the kingdom. They had freedom of worship and were never molested.

The people of Carouge, always very independent, adopted the ideas of the Revolution.

On the 30th of October, Carouge was occupied by French troops and cut off from Turin. Development of city came to an abrupt halt. Carouge then became the capital of its district in the Department of Mont-Blanc, and in 1798, the capital of the canton of the new Department of Leman created at the annexation of Geneva by Napoleon’s troops.

The citizen Herpin, a military officer, founded a faïence factory in a building which he owned on the present rue Joseph-Girard. This was the beginning of an adventure especially marked by the Baylon and Coppier families until 1930.

The Place du Marché (Market Place) was leveled and 32 plane trees were planted in two rows.

During the 100 Days, the French General Dessaix occupied Carouge and installed his headquarters at number one rue St. Victor.

With the Treaty of Turin, March 16th, Carouge was incorporated into the Canton of Geneva along with 31 other communities, some Savoyard, some French. Carouge, the rebel, became Swiss. Louis de Montfalcon achieved a triple political exploit: royal notary during the Sardinian regime, mayor during the French regime, he became the first mayor of the Swiss Carouge !

The first American tramway in Switzerland opened on the Carouge-Place Neuve line. After Paris, Liverpool and London, Carouge and Geneva possessed the large horse-drawn wagons on rails, replaced in 1878 by steam, and electrified in 1894. The present Number 12 line was created around

In the 30s, it covered 12 kilometers. Unique in the world, the No. 12 line is at once urban, suburban, interurban and international : it connected the railway stations of Saint-Julien and Annemasse, crossing through the Canton of Geneva.

The former vegetable gardens of la Praille were converted into a huge industrial zone managed by the FIPA (Foundation for the Industrial Property of la Praille-Acacias), today called the FTI.

Carouge was twinned with the first ward of Budapest, capital of Hungary. Resolutely feminine: in April, the Geneva Bureau of Equality Between Men and Women was installed at 2, rue de la Tannerie including Filigrane, a documentation center, Espace Femmes International, a meeting place for international women, and the Archives of Everyday Life. Carouge also houses Inédite, the only women’s bookstore in the canton at (15, rue St.-Joseph) and Zoè, a publishing house directed by Marlyse Piétri (11, rue des Moraines). We must not forget Madame Récamier, the “god-mother” of the famous benches of the city and her friend Germaine de Staël, whose name was given to the only “feminine” collége (secondary school) in the Canton !