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When a Glarner ran the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques in Nice

From 1910 to 1920, the hotelier Ernst Johannes Bäbler from Glarus and his business partner Friedrich Buchli ran the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques in Nice.

The following article and more information about the former Grand Hotel in Nice appeared on Roland Patin's blog in French. Below I have slightly changed the article and translated it into English and German.



The new operators of the "Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques" in Nice, "Baebler & Buchli", were already reported on in March 1910 (The Swiss & Nice Times of March 24, 1910). Their first advertisement followed that of Andrea Zambail and appeared in The Swiss & Nice Times from June 6, 1910.




Ernst Johannes Bäbler was born in Zurich on February 28, 1872. He is one of the children of Johann Paulus Bäbler, editor (born in Schwanden on March 13, 1839 and died in Zurich-Neumünster on July 30, 1907) and the first of his two wives, Elisabeth Guggenbühl (born in Zurich on November 10, 1842 and died in Zurich-Neumünster on May 23, 1876), who were married in Zurich on May 31, 1866.


Nothing is known about Ernst Johannes Bäbler's youth and the beginning of his career in Zurich in the 1860s and 1880s. He probably attended hotel management school, worked in Zurich during the winter season and in hotels in resorts in the Swiss Alps during the summer season.


The 29-year-old Ernst Johannes Bäbler marries Anna Maria Fritsche (born on June 8, 1871 from Appenzell) on April 25, 1891. The couple has seven children between 1892 and 1902. These births, which occurred particularly in the Swiss cities of Chur, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Davos, and finally Zurich, seem to imply their father's professional mobility at the time. His wife unfortunately died on September 25, 1906, at the age of only 35.


Ernst Johannes Bäbler remarries on October 22, 1908, to his cousin Mathilda Sophie Maria Bäbler (born on July 6, 1883 in Brescia, Italy). The new union produced a daughter Maria Elisabeth the following year, who was born in Zurich on April 25, 1909.


In 1907, Ernst Johannes Bäbler settled in St. Moritz-Bad for a few years to manage the Hôtel du Lac (Fögl d'Engiadina, June 22, 1907; Fémina, 1907 p. 281 and p. 341).


Between 1908 and 1910 he joined forces there with Friedrich Buchli (mentioned in, Guide Through Europe, 1912 p 676). In 1910 he then took over the management of the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques in Nice together with his business partner and moved there with his children and his second wife.


At the beginning of the research, little information could be found about Frederick Buchli. His name does not appear in the 1911 census of the city of Nice under the address of the hotel, but you probably have to guess him in the list of members of the family "Baebler" under the first name "Frédéric, born 1880, in Chur, Switzerland, brother [!]", which seems to be single.


These clues led to a person named Friedrich (Fritz) Buchli, who is the son of Johannes Buchli and Magdalena Hermann, who married in Braunau (Thurgau).


Friedrich Buchli graduated from hotel school in Switzerland and went first to England, and to the Pyrenees in France, before going to St. Moritz-Bad between 1908 and 1910, where he met Bäbler, and finally moved with him to Nice from 1910.


In the 1910s, advertisements for the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques stated that it offered up to 200 beds.

The First World War hit the hotel industry in Nice particularly hard. The 35-year-old Friedrich Buchli married Frieda Sonderegger (born November 23, 1893) in Balgach (St. Gallen) on September 21, 1915. They have several children, including a son named Fredy and probably three daughters, Beatrice, Elaine and Ruth.


During the war, many hotels in Nice served as hospitals and rest homes for the wounded and as boarding houses for refugees. The restaurant of the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques served, among other things, as a dining room for several hundred Serbian refugee children from 1916.


With the Armistice in November 1918, Avenue de la Gare was renamed "Avenue de la Victoire".


It is very likely that the war took its toll on Bäbler and Buchli's finances and they wanted to end the management of the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques after the winter season of 1919/20.


Their two names were generally found from 1911 to 1920 in the Annuaires Niçois (Nice city population directories), but in an order and spelling that sometimes varied: "Baebler et Buchli" (most common), "Bucchi (sic!) et Baebler" (1914) or even "Baëbler (sic!)" (1918).


In the spring of 1920, the members of the Brun family, who owned the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques, sold it to the Banque Nationale de Crédit.


Ernst Johannes Bäbler left Nice with his family and took over the management of the Palace Hotel in Pontresina (Grisons) in 1921 (La Rezia, June 11, 1921).


Ernest Jean Baebler, a naturalized Frenchman, residing at 43, rue Rossini (probably at the Real Palace), but died in Nice on January 24, 1934, at the age of 61 (he was buried in the Cimetière Niçois de Sainte- Marguerite only in 2010). His name is left out of the Annuaires des Alpes-Maritimes of the 1930s. In 1933, his wife's address in Menton is given, but her name also does not appear in the annuaires. Mathilda Sophie Maria Baebler died on May 11, 1959, also in Nice, at the age of 75.


Friedrich (Fritz Buchli) works in Davos after Nice. Then he managed in Arosa (Grisons) the Hotel Kulm and later the Grand Hotel Tschuggen. From 1924 he managed this hotel together with the Grand Hotel Kurhaus in Tarasp (in the Lower Engadine). He collaborated with his son Fredy Buchli, who succeeded him around 1947 and became director of the Grand Hotel Kurhaus Tarasp.


Friedrich Buchli, who was 67 years old at that time, however, retained the management of the Tarasp baths. He died in Chur at the beginning of April 1959 at the age of 79 (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, April 14, 1959).


His wife Frieda, née Sonderegger, died at the end of the 20th century (probably in Chur, after 1985). Their son Fredy (married to Anita Osterwalder) died in Chur in early July 1985 (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, July 6, 1985).


EPILOG


The Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques in Nice existed from 1868 to 1920, hosting numerous French and foreign (especially English and American) tourists, rulers and personalities (especially from the world of sports).


The maitres d'hôtel alternated with Frenchmen (Maurice Rosnoblet and Antoine Chassepot), Austrians (Joseph Lavit) and Swiss (Andréa Zambail, then Jean Baebler and Friedrich Buchli), on average every ten years.


The ads highlighted Avenue du Prince-Impérial (rather than Avenue de Longchamp) as the hotel address, then Boulevard Victor-Hugo (rather than Avenue de la Gare), and finally Avenue de la Victoire (rather than Avenue Victor-Hugo).


However, the name of the hotel was mostly classified in the telephone directories under "Îles-Britanniques" and very rarely under "Grand Hotel". It is noteworthy that the 1920 telephone directory shows "Princess Restaurant" under the address of the hotel.


With the sale of the hotel by the Brun family, not only the Hotel des Îles-Britanniques and the restaurant disappear, but also the shopping stores that had been located there.


Particularly noteworthy on the side of Avenue de la Victoire is the "Taverne Gothique", opened around 1883 by Albert Kühn and taken over since 1893 by Jean-Baptiste Rebaudo, and on the side of Avenue Victor-Hugo the cinema "Artistic Cinéma", "Odéon Cinéma", "Gaieté-Cinéma" and finally "American Cinéma", opened since 1906 or 1907. The latter is later replaced by the "Cabaret du Geai qui parle" and the "Bar Améric").


The building of the Hôtel des Îles-Britanniques was purchased on June 4, 1920 by the Banque Nationale de Crédit de Paris to establish a branch in Nice. It was rebuilt under the direction of architects Dalmas Père and Fils, Charles Dalmas and Marcel Dalmas.

The new facades, over 60 m long and 30 m wide, gained prestige, with a raised first floor adorned by large arcades and semicircular arched openings, above a neoclassical decoration of large columns that reduced the number of openings on three levels, lightened the corners and emphasized the verticality of the whole. The whole is now crowned, above an imposing cornice, by an attic dominated by a series of pediments. The central axis of the façade on the Boulevard Victor-Hugo is particularly neat, with an entrance surmounted by a majestic, slightly projecting tripartite decoration dominated by a large triangular carved pediment.


The main entrance, however, is on Avenue de la Victoire and leads through six doors under a large porch, five of which open into a huge hall that runs through the entire building.

Nizza, BNP Paribas Bank, October 2023



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