Tour Locations | Cowbells, Chalets and Balthus: A Swiss Alpine Village Excursion
Front of the Grand Chalet
Stop here in front of the gates of the Grand Chalet.
The Grand Chalet was originally built by Jean David Henchoz, a wealthy cheese merchant and illustrates the economic importance of cheese for the region. The cheese was produced in the surrounding farms and then exported to the neighbouring Swiss towns, into Europe and as far afield as the French West Indies, Constantinople and Egypt.
Work on the Grand Chalet started in 1752 and finished 4 years later. Unfortunately, David Henchoz died in 1758 at the age of 46 and did not live to enjoy his house.
The building was originally designed for two families. The size was dictated by the cheese cellars which had to be large enough to store several hundred cheese wheels.
The building has six floors and, during construction, required 700 cubic meters of timber. 200 large spruce trees were cut and dragged through the snow by horse-drawn sledges. The chalet has 60 rooms and 113 windows. The roof is 950 square meters - with approximately 200,000 wooden shingles. These are known, in French, as tavillon.
Have a look carefully at the front of the chalet, and you can make out the frescoes. These are mainly religious texts and took two people 43 days to create.
The building was converted into a hotel in 1857 and became popular with English tourists as well as other famous guests such as Victor Hugo. With the arrival of the mountain railway in Rossinière in 1904, tourists also started to arrive for the winter season. The Grand Chalet did not have en-suite bathrooms and this put it at a disadvantage over other hotels. Without the funds to make these improvements, the English owner decided to put it on the market. In 1976 the famous painter Balthus and his wife, who were vacationing in the area, came to have afternoon tea at the chalet. They fell in love with the chalet and purchased it as their private residence. They had the house painstakingly restored and Balthus lived here until his death in 2001. The Grand Chalet is currently inhabited by Balthus' widow, Countess Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, with several other members of their family.