Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
Although most people probably never heard of the place, it was once one of the wealthiest towns in the world. 80% of the planet’s wool was processed here.
In the 1850’s a relative of the previous owners of our house called Pierre Houles perfected a method called delainage: “separating wool from sheep skins: fellmongery. This led to the economic and financial miracle that shaped Mazamet over the next hundred years.” It was the first time wool could be separated from hides and both were left in perfect condition.
This meant that a small town with a population of only 10,000 experienced an extraordinary boom. Our street, for example, which is part of the town tour, is mansion, after mansion, after mansion. Most with unusual architecture which is explained by the very international nature of the town at the time these homes were built. The industrialists did a lot of business with most of Europe, Australia (in fact there’s a There is Rue de Australie, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney), Wales and various South American- countries which obviously influenced their tastes.
Most of the houses on our side of the street (left) belonged to the same family. If you count relations by marriage, we could say most houses in the town belonged to the same family.
The story of our street begins with a wool industrialist named Edouard Vidal who buys the grounds of the Chateau de la Sagne in the 1850’s from the Olombel family. We found a map drawing in the attic which, well, maps out Mr. Vidal’s 356 properties in the 19th century.
He then builds the house which is today the Cathar Museum of Mazamet. The place was passed down to the Fuzier family by marriage and so it’s now called Maison Fuzier.
A few years go by and his children and grandchildren all build houses on the same street. If my memory is correct, the second house the Vidal’s built was in the 1860’s. It’s the one right next door to us which is known today as Maison Vialars:
Shortly afterwards, Edouard Vidal built the other neoclassical house on the street. It looks suspiciously similar to ours, although their entrance hall is at the side and it’s a rectangular floorplan only two windows deep whereas ours is more of a square.
The suspicious similarity was no accident. Our house was built for Genevieve Vidal, the granddaughter of the owners of the white neoclassical.
Our house is hidden from passersby
Anyway, Genevieve married a French-American called Robert Stanton and they built our place in 1927. He was the son of Theodore Stanton, hence grandson of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the 19th century feminist (main author of the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments)- and of the abolitionist Henry Brewster Stanton. Theodore was a journalist who worked in Paris, but the family had wool interests, thus their connection to Mazamet.
…And that’s what I know because of all the paperwork the Stanton’s left behind. I should probably organize it all and donate it to the local museum at some point.