History of the Pralies
On a nice summer afternoon, my wife Sylvia and I discovered an enchanting property overlooking the Lake Leman, the Alps topped by the Mont Blanc mountain.
We decided to acquire this fifty hectare estate. The farm compound located in the middle is composed of three buildings in a U-shape with a fountain in the middle. When we first saw it, it felt as if we were in the middle ages. The buildings had fallen into disrepair, roofs were leaking, there were no essential necessities such as toilets, electricity etc.
However, it still had the architectural features from the past such as a beautiful ancient chimney and lots of rooms.
While remaining true to its history and architecture, we decided to restore the compound with modern amenities over a period of fifteen years, retaining as much of the original features as possible.
All the walls and windows were isolated with the latest technologies.
The biggest investment was for the farm was to generate its own electricity. This was achieved with 242 photovoltaic panels, some on the roof, some in the field.
The farm benefits from natural spring water coming from the Jura mountains behind (locals come to fill their bottles).
Today, les Pralies is largely self-sufficient, free from hydrocarbon based fuels.
We converted the rooms into guest rooms each with access to toilets and showers etc. Beds are Baldaquin Beds (a nod to the past with high wooden frames where curtains are hanging.
Guest have at their disposal a fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher and laundry machine.
The property was crossed by an ancient Roman road then called Via Stata, linking Burgundy to Switzerland. Over the centuries the name was transformed to “Vie de l’Etraz”, its current name. On the upper part of the property going up the Jura mountains is called today Contremble, on the left side of Via Stata, you have several small forests and fields. On an old map, it was then called “Trousse Cautillon” literally translated as“lifting the dress of the young ladies”.
Also, in this upper part you can find ruins (actually the bottom part of an old castle). Historians believe that originally, it must have been a Roman watch tower with its Roman camp to observe the Via Strata below. Today, in digging you still can find some roman coins.
Later on it was transformed into a castle with a beautiful view over the whole Swiss Leman area. It is thought to have been surrounded by a beautiful park; some trees in the area date back to this period. According to a historian, the castle was destroyed either by the Swiss Bernois in the 1530s or by the counts of Geneva in the 1590s. Both did not want a local powerful lord near them.
Shortly after I acquired the property, I got the documents of sales of the Pralies dating way back. I discovered that it belonged to a Convent who sold it in 1777 to the Knight Hyacinte Devaux Deprée who was an officer of the Famous Regiment Royale Deux Ponts under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette. This Regiment was the first one to cross the Yorktown lines during the US Revolutionary War, consecrating the independence of the United Sates. You can see at the Smithsonian museum, a painting representing the Regiment Royal Deux Pont’s flag crossing the lines. Coming back from the United States, the Chevaleir Despreux bought the property as a pension from the French King.