Chemin de l'Impératrice 10
1292 Chambésy (Geneva)
The property, just like the lane on which it is located, is named after one of the most famous owners of the castle, Empress Josephine. The same property, which was sold by auction in 1811 and acquired by Jean Marc Calandrini (acting for "His Majesty"), comprises a mansion-house, three outbuildings, a courtyard, terraced gardens, rows of trees, orchards, meadows, fields, vineyards, etc., not to mention a small harbour where fishermen may find shelter.
In 1538 the estate was structured as follows: North, bordering on the Dupuys's property (later the "Reposoir des Pictet); South and West delimited by the lane leading to the Lake from Pregny (i.e. Chemin de l'Impératrice), East by the Geneva-Versoix road (i.e. Route Suisse). The estate comprised a house with a barn, stables, a loft as well as a garden, vineyards and meadows.
At the same time it already comprised the plot of land on the other side of Chemin de l'Impératrice, where a few big outhouses would be built at a later stage.
It is worth noting that Chemin de l'Impératrice corresponded approximately with the boundary-line separating the territory of Varembé - which had been granted franchise by the City of Geneva since 1535 - from that of Pregny, successively under the jurisdiction of Bern, of Savoy and, as of 1601, of France. Hence, up to 1814 the main part of the estate was not under the franchise regime.
The reconstruction of the castle, as we see it today, is attributed to Alexandre Sales, a lawyer who bought the property back in 1751; he was the promoter of the harmonization of the façade overlooking the lake, which is part of a two-storied building, flanked with slightly protruding wings that give the abode its characteristic castle-like appearance.
There is no doubt that around 1751 Sales modernized completely and luxuriously the interior of the mansion-house; the architecture of the façade overlooking the garden being peculiar to buildings of the first half of the XVIII century, the work of renovation is thought to date back to the times of the previous owner, though certainly not before 1730, i.e. before Micheli-Du-Crest's plan of renovation.
In the first half of the XIX century, Geneva attracted a great crowd of travellers, delighted with the proximity of Mont-Blanc. Many people would go as far as the foot of this wonderful natural monument, while others would be content to just admire it from the shores of Lake Leman. The best view of the scenery one could have though was from the hill of Pregny and more so from the Château de Penthes.
The most brilliant landscape-painters of the time made several sketches of this extraordinary scenery, blending the still waters of the blue Lake with the enchanting surrounding chain of mountains : in the foreground you could admire a patch of land which was nothing else but the the Empress's estate with its vineyards, castle and outhouses.
Jean-Philippe Link's print of 1811 gives you a very good idea of what the estate looked like. It is said that Josephine had a considerable amount of work done in the castle with a view to its enlargement. Yet, the land office's records and the fact that the Empress did not stay in Pregny for very long do not seem to confirm this version of the matter.
Josephine's presence in the castle may therefore be described as an ephemeral event in the history of the estate whose owners - the last one being the "Ville de Genève" - can be traced back to the end of the XV century. In 1954 the castle was classified historical monument and has been hosting the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations Office in Geneva for several years.
Present day entrance to the estate.