Just Merveilleux

Life at № 42

Mazamet & the house: a bit of history

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.

mazstreet

 

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.

vidalproperties

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.

Cathar Museum/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:

neighbour1

 

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.

vidalneoclassical

From right to left: the white neoclassical, then Maison Vialars, and then our house which unlike the others has a tall surrounding wall and is mostly hidden by trees.

Our house is hidden from passersby

streetview

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. 

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24 comments on “Mazamet & the house: a bit of history

  1. makagutu
    April 28, 2015

    That’s a neighbourhood with a rich history

    Like

  2. acflory
    April 28, 2015

    -picks jaw off floor- Before you donate all that history – write the story of the house and its environs! Did you know all this wonderful stuff before you bought the house? Can’t believe how lucky you’ve been. Or perhaps fate is balancing out the bad years. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      April 28, 2015

      I’ll definitely record it all first! I knew a bit of the wool history- but I didn’t know how big a role the family we were buying the house from had played in it.
      I’m going with fate balancing things out and a good bit of luck on top 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

      • acflory
        April 28, 2015

        lol – in a glass half full world the balancing is well overdue!

        Like

      • docatheist
        June 24, 2015

        Thomas Jefferson reportedly said that luck was a funny thing: The harder he worked, the more he had of it. I expect you earned your luck, E. Very well done, that!

        Like

    • docatheist
      June 24, 2015

      I, too, am in aMAZEMEnT. 🙂

      Like

  3. john zande
    April 28, 2015

    I guess that whole town truly and deeply hates Australia, after we stole away their wool market 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mr. Merveilleux
      April 28, 2015

      I’m not sure- Australia is often mentioned but at the same time they seem incredibly receptive to foreigners. Mike was afraid people would be stand-offish because he’s British and actually it’s been quite the opposite. I think the forced cultural mix of the boom years had a very positive effect on the local mindset that still exists today. It’s a small town with a big city attitude.
      No one has even blinked at the fact we’re a gay couple, or outsiders, or in an age gap relationship. The day after we arrived an elderly woman who lives across the street came by to say that anything we needed at any time we could just knock on her door.
      To be honest I’ve never experienced this degree of gratuitous kindness anywhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • john zande
        April 28, 2015

        Savour it! Civility should be cherished.

        Like

  4. Arkenaten
    April 28, 2015

    Great read.
    And your house is two years older than mine!
    Although yours is a lot ”posher”.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Arkenaten
    April 28, 2015

    I just did a quick Wiki search of Mazamet for a bit more geography and to fill out your history and found it forms part of the Castres- Mazamet metropolitan area.
    I visited this area twice and stayed in the nearby commune of Labrugiere when I was a teenager on a student exchange program.

    Funny old world is it not?
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidprosser
    April 28, 2015

    I love the degree of privacy the walls and trees afford you.even n though as a pedestrian I’d enjoy the frontage of these properties. I’m delighted to hear of the neighbourliness and how could anyone not welcome Mike with his heritage from Wales?
    Hugs to both.

    Like

  7. roughseasinthemed
    April 28, 2015

    I’m surprised your house is so new. I guess thinking Palladian I was assuming older, but the bathrooms should have given me a slight clue.

    How lovely to have the history of the house and the town. Eighty per cent of the wool? I’m finding that hard to believe coming from the prime wool mill factory area in the UK, incl cashmere. So, where are the factories/mills?

    Must find a link to a friend’s former (victorian) house, his family had a pretty classy mill.

    Like

    • roughseasinthemed
      April 28, 2015

      There you go. Somewhat daggy interior taste and red!! front door, but 30 years ago it wasn’t too bad.

      Like

  8. appletonavenue
    May 6, 2015

    How awesome to have all that history in your hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. docatheist
    June 24, 2015

    Is the Vidal family related to Gore Vidal?

    Like

    • docatheist
      June 24, 2015

      Oh, dear: I was confusing names and meant Vidal Sassoon, completely different. My brain connected the name “Vidal” with the thought of wool being sheep hair.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. stanton
    April 2, 2017

    Hi,
    happy to see your blog. Some info on the houses : older house is the one on the right of your photo “from righ to left..”. Then “maison Vialars” was the house of Genevieve Vidal-Robert Stanton (then sold to Mr Vialars, doctor, when they died). The following house (on the “rue de Strasbourg”, that i understand to be yours) was the house of Yvonne Vidal, the sister of Genevieve Vidal. Yvonne married Mr. Hine (from the family of the famous Hine cognac).
    Hope you all happiness in this very nice house !

    Eric Stanton
    (i spent my youth in these houses, Genevieve Vidal was my grand’mother)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Eric
      How interesting! So are you a cousin of Patricia’s? When we arrived there was still a little sign on the door that said M & Mme C. Stanton. I think Claude and Nicole?

      Like

      • stanton
        April 2, 2017

        Yes i am a cousin of Patricia. You are right, after the death of Yvonne Vidal-Hine, house was taken by Claude (son of Genevieve Vidal-Stanton) & Nicole, inhabited till the death of Nicole, last of the Vidal-Stanton’s family in Mazamet

        Like

      • We bought the house just a few months after Nicole died. Patricia was really lovely & helpful to us. Her brother on the other hand… 🙂
        Do you by any chance have any pictures of the house in your childhood? We asked Patricia but she said she didn’t really keep anything like that. We’ve been trying to (as much as possible) re-create the original decoration.

        Like

  11. eric
    April 5, 2017

    I have searched for photos in my boxes but i did’nt find any taken inside, except 4 of a christmas dinner in 1981 ! They show essentially people, with only very small details on wall laying and curtains, that anyway i think did’nt change through the years.
    Anyway if you wish you can send me your email and i will send these pics.

    Like

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