• LOCATION 17 | A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy

    The public weight and the annexation by Geneva

    Walk as far as the corner of the pub and stop there.

    Right around the corner is a strange wooden plateau on the pavement. What could this be?

    [4 SECOND PAUSE]

    Look at the name of the pub: “le poids public”, the public weight. It is a balance, a scale. Carouge was the chief town of a big agricultural province. At times of harvest, the farmers came here with their oxcarts, loaded for instance with wheat. The cart and the load were weighed together here. Then they went to the marketplace to unload it and after this, came back here to weigh the oxcart alone. So, they knew how much wheat they had brought for sales. This balance is today under special monument protection, the owner must maintain it properly in function. And he does that very well.

    Now while I tell you another story, you can stay here or have a drink on the terrace of the pub.

    The perpendicular street here is called “Filature”. At the right end of the street, there was a big spinning factory – in French a filature – which started in 1810 to produce cotton threads of the finest quality. They were in great demand in the whole Sardinian kingdom. It was the biggest and most modern factory in Europe and employed up to 600 workers.

    After the end of the Napoleonic wars, in 1816, the province of Carouge was joined to Geneva who had just joined the Swiss confederation. For Carouge, this was an economic catastrophe! It was separated from its commercial hinterland. There were import taxes to the kingdom so high that the threads could all of a sudden not be exported anymore. The factory had to close down. Then there were also two famous ceramic factories. They also had to close. All of a sudden, some thousand workers were out of jobs at a time where there was no unemployment scheme. The town administration had to organize popular soups and hand out vouchers for free coal for heating in winter. It was a disaster for Carouge. This is why joining the Canton of Geneva and Switzerland was felt as an annexation. But since then, Carouge has redone itself, and today, it is one of the most prosperous suburban places in Geneva.

    Now, cross the street to continue walking up Rue Saint-Joseph in the same direction you've been going.

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A Stroll Through Carouge: Geneva's Little Italy