The Hotel Arbez, also called the Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse, is a hotel that straddles the international border between France and Switzerland in the tiny village of La Cure, which is itself divided by the boundary. Built by a private landowner and businessman specially to take advantage of an impending border adjustment between the two countries, the structure was originally used as a grocery store (its Swiss portion) and a pub (the French half). Today, the entire building houses a hotel, whose dining room, kitchen and several rooms are bisected by the boundary.
The unique situation of the Hotel Arbez grew out of a dispute between France and Switzerland over possession of the Vallee des Dappes, just south and west of the tiny town of La Cure. Though the valley had little value as a territorial possession, it provided an accessible military route between France and Savoy. Annexed by Napoleonic France in 1802, it was returned to Switzerland by the Congress of Vienna, though the French continued to call for its retrocession. After several attempts to acquire the area were firmly rebuffed by the Swiss, France decided in 1862 to offer a nearby section of its own territory, comparable in size, in exchange. The Swiss agreed, and a treaty was accordingly signed in Bern by which slightly less than three square miles changed hands. While La Cure had previously been located entirely inside France, the new boundary was slated to cut the village—including some residences and a pub—in half. The treaty stipulated that any already-existing structure bisected by the border was to be left undisturbed, and this gave one local businessman an idea.
Construction of the hotel
At the time of the signing of the treaty in December 1862, the land currently occupied by the Hotel Arbez was owned by a French citizen named Ponthus. Taking advantage of the provision about leaving undisturbed previously-existing buildings bisected by the new boundary, coupled with the delay in ratification by the Swiss Parliament, he hurriedly erected a three-story structure in a location that would straddle the border, with approximately one-third in what would become Swiss territory, and the remaining two-thirds in France. Hoping to take advantage of the new cross-border traffic, he opened a grocery store in the Swiss portion of the building and a bar in the French section. By 1921 Ponthus' heirs had fallen on hard times, and the building was sold to Jules-Jean Arbeze, who remodeled it and reopened it as a hotel.
World War II and afterwards
During the German occupation of France in World War II, their troops were allowed to enter the French side of the hotel, but were strictly prohibited from crossing to the Swiss side. Since the stairway to the upper floor started in French territory but ended in Switzerland, the Germans were not permitted to access any of the upper rooms, which became a refuge for refugees and French Resistance members. The hotel was chosen in 1962 for negotiation of the Évian Accords between France and Algeria, which resulted in the independence of the latter.
The Arbez today
Today, the Franco-Swiss border passes through the kitchen, dining room, hallway and several rooms of the Hotel Arbez:
- The dining room is divided by the boundary.
- The bar is entirely located in France, though the boundary passes just outside its front door.
- The bed in the honeymoon suite is bisected by the border, with half in France and half in Switzerland.
- The main hall and stairway are bisected by the border. The lower half of the stairs lie in France, the upper half in Switzerland;
- Another room has its bathroom in France, while the rest of the room is in Switzerland.
- The annex to the hotel is located entirely in Switzerland.
Today, the Hotel Arbez is operated by the French company SARL Arbez Franco Suisse, which pays taxes equally to both countries. When the French government banned smoking in French pubs and restaurants in 2008, the rule was applied in both the Swiss and French sides of the dining room.
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- "Dappes ( Vallee Des Dappes)". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Treaty of Dappes
- "Jan S. Krogh's Geosite: La Cure". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse, Located Half in Switzerland and Half in France". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "Jan S. Krogh's Geosite: Hotel Arbez". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- "Hotel Arbez Franco-Suisse". Retrieved 17 November 2016.
- Hotel Arbez. Website for the hotel; primarily in French, with limited English translation.
- La Cure: Photos and Maps. Offers several large photos of the interior and exterior of the hotel, with lines showing the border's location.
- Hotel Arbez: Half in France and Half in Switzerland. Offers photos of the interior and exterior of the Hotel Arbez, with lines showing the precise location of the border in each.