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Anecdotes about the Saint-Jean Charmilles district

Did you know? Saint-Jean Charmilles was home to a zoo as well as several philosophers of the Enlightenment… but not very many bars!

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A zoo with an eventful history

Between 1935 and 1940, there was a zoo in Saint-Jean beside the Avenue d’Aïre. One day in July 1935, fifty monkeys escaped. For several weeks, they wreaked joyful havoc throughout the district. Some even colonised the chestnut trees around Campagne Masset!

In 1940, the zoo closed after encountering financial difficulties and sold the animals. A group of farmers bought an elephant for CHF 800, hoping to save on the cost of a tractor. The animal proved to be too lazy and they finally sold it again to the Knie circus.

Street names referring to the Enlightenment

In Saint-Jean Charmilles, many street names pay homage to the philosophers of the Enlightenment who marked the history of Geneva, such as Voltaire and Mme de Staël. There is even a Rue de l’Encyclopédie, honouring their collective work.

The streets recalling the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a native of Geneva, are the most numerous: avenue du Devin-du-Village, sentier du Promeneur-Solitaire, rue du Contrat-Social, rue des Confessions… The rue de Warens refers to the baroness who was his guardian and teacher while the Rue d’Ermenonville recalls the French village where he died.

These names are linked to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of Rousseau’s birth, held in 1912. At that time, the municipality of Petit-Saconnex had planned to build a new quarter above Saint-Jean. It decided to call it the “new quarter of Jean-Jacques” and to give the future streets names recalling the writer and philosopher born in Geneva. 

Scarcity of bars in old Saint-Jean

Compared to other working class districts, old St-Jean has relatively few bistros or cafés. This particularity is a result of the history of the district. It is said that a rich owner of the district donated part of his land in the 19th century, on condition that no establishment serving drinks be set up there.

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Article modifié le 26.02.2020 à 13:01