Thonon’s first town house was built in the 16th century by the Bernese where the current town hall how stands. The ground floor of the building was used as a warehouse, storeroom and shed. When the Bernese left Chablais in 1567, the locals used the house as a town hall where the council met up when the bell in its tower rang out. Traders, craftspeople and shop owners used the ground floor whilst the first floor housed council rooms, co-owners offices and the chambers of various administrative departments.
It was badly maintained and barely functioning so in 1803, when it was in a state of disrepair, the council decided to award its restoration to the Carrouge-based architect Joseph Mazzone. Construction work did not go ahead due to lack of funds.
The building was completely destroyed on the night of the 10th to 11th of December 1815 when a terrible fire broke out caused by the Sardinian soldiers who were living in it.
It was not rebuilt immediately as the town was still in a difficult financial situation because troops of soldiers were constantly passing through and the town had to accommodate and feed them.
Building work finally began in 1821 using Joseph Mazzone’s plans and those of the Laussane-based architect Louis Perregaud. The work went on for over a decade.
A neoclassical style was chosen to reflect the era. The town hall was the most visible representation of the administrative network and had to display its nobility and architectural prowess. To this day it is the public building par excellence of the Sardinian period.
The building’s layout has been borrowed from Piedmont architecture: galleries opening onto an internal courtyard and Place de la Halle (Place de l'Hôtel de Ville) with a symmetrical façade topped by a triangular pediment.
The front door is below a central balcony opening onto a hall where a wrought iron staircase leads to the council room.
Over the years the building has housed the town council, administrative offices, the subprefecture and court without changing very much.
After the courthouse was moved to Château de Bellegarde in the 60s, the council decided to proceed with refurbishing the interior whilst keeping the façades as they were. Maurice Novarina was in charge of designing and managing the project which included restoring the reception room, committee room and the mayor and general secretary’s chambers in keeping with their original features.
The ceiling above the central staircase was decorated with coats of arms from Savoie counts, Thonon and Chablais’ noble and bourgeois families by the Genevan artist Beretta.
The peristyle court was paved with pebbles from the Dranse whilst the mermaid on the fountain is one of the sculptor Marguerite Peltzer-Genoyer’s best pieces.
In 1991, still looking for space for the council departments, the council decided to make some changes such as closing the galleries off with picture windows and making them into offices.
- Site, building partially accessible
- Not open to the public