Villa Cassel

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The Villa Cassel on the Riederfurka
Frontal view

The Villa Cassel is a 1900 to 1902 in Victorian style built villa in the village of Riederalp in the Swiss canton of Valais . It was built on behalf of the German-English banker Sir Ernest Cassel and used by him as a summer residence until the beginning of the First World War . After the war, the villa was used as a hotel until 1969. Since 1976 it has been used by Pro Natura as the Pro Natura Center Aletsch for events and as an information center on the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch . It is a cultural asset of regional importance and with the KGS no. 6959 listed in the list of cultural assets in Riederalp .


Health problems meant that Ernest Cassel, on the advice of Sir William Broadbent , Queen Victoria's court physician , spent the summer of 1895 at the Riederfurka Hotel. The altitude and the mountain air above the Riederalp and in the Aletsch Forest should improve his ailing health. Cassel found the standard of the hotel at the time, which was laboriously cared for by mules and only had small bed chambers, as inadequate. Nevertheless, he decided to go to Valais in the summer in the following years. He soon made the decision to build his own property instead of booking hotel accommodation.

It took Cassel several years to obtain approval from the municipality for the exposed building site in Riederfurka, next to his previous domicile in the hotel. With extensive donations for the community schools in Ried and Betten , he finally achieved his goal and received the 13,000 square meter building plot as a gift. Construction began in the summer of 1900 and the villa was ready for occupancy two years later. With the exception of locally available stones and wood, all building materials and furnishings had to be dragged by porters and pack animals to Riederfurka, which is around 1900 meters high.

The Villa Cassel received a total of 25 rooms on four floors, as well as the utility rooms in the basement. In addition to the kitchen, there was also a wine cellar , pantry and workshop . On the ground floor there was a large dining room , a salon and a smoking room , as well as the master's office. The rooms were laid out with high-quality parquet , they received coffered ceilings , elaborate paneling and fabric wallpaper . The first and second floors were reserved for the bedrooms of the Cassel family and their guests. There were simple chambers under the roof for the extensive domestic staff . There was a separate staircase for the staff , the generously laid out curved staircase in the tower of the villa was reserved for the family of the landlord and their guests. As early as 1901, the villa had a telephone connection installed at Cassel's expense .

In addition to Cassel and his family, especially his daughter and his two granddaughters and his sister and their children, many guests used the villa in the years up to 1914. Winston Churchill was one of the most famous . At least four stays have been recorded by him, which he mainly used for his literary work. According to a local anecdote, he was bothered by the surrounding cowbells , whereupon Sir Ernest paid the farmers money to stuff the cowbells with straw. Every year in August, Cassel organized the “Casselfest” for the locals on the terrace of the villa. A few years after the villa was completed, he had a small chalet built in the local architectural style for his granddaughters a little away from the main building .

Sir Ernest Cassel last spent the beginning of summer 1914 on the Riederfurka. After the outbreak of the First World War , which he tried to prevent through his contacts in politics and the financial world, he left the villa. In the war years he had the villa prepared for a visit as a precaution, but it never happened. His deteriorating health finally prevented his return. After his death in 1921, his granddaughter Edwina Ashley , later wife of the last Indian viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten , inherited the villa. She sold the property in 1924 to a local hotelier family who ran the villa as a hotel together with the granddaughters' small chalet. The hotel business, which was expensive due to laborious deliveries by mule, became increasingly unprofitable in the 1960s, and there was also increasing maintenance costs. The hotel business therefore ended in 1969 and the villa increasingly fell into disrepair in the years that followed.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the then Swiss Confederation for Nature Conservation , today's Pro Natura , acquired the Villa Cassel and began its renovation. The renovation was financed primarily through donations, including the 1974 Schoggitaler campaign . On July 10, 1976, the villa was inaugurated for its new purpose. Since then, it has served Pro Natura as a nature conservation center for the Aletsch Forest and the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage Site . The offer includes excursions to the Aletsch Forest and the Aletsch Glacier , exhibitions and events. There are also several guest rooms available in the villa and chalet.

Web links

Commons : Villa Cassel  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 46 ° 22 '35.8 "  N , 8 ° 0' 58.1"  E ; CH1903:  644432  /  136300