The gates of Nellcôte in August 2008
10 Avenue Louise Bordes|
Nellcôte (often referred to as Villa Nellcôte) is a 16-room mansion built during the Belle Époque on a headland above the sea at Villefranche-sur-Mer on the Côte d'Azur in southern France. Nellcote was leased from April 1971 to March 1972 by Keith Richards, guitarist of The Rolling Stones, and recording sessions for their classic 1972 Exile on Main St. album took place in its basement.
In the late 1890s, a former banker, Eugene Thomas, built the imposing villa fronted with marble Ionic columns. Originally it bore the name of Château Amicitia. In 1919, the villa, since renamed Nellcôte, was acquired by the Bordes family, famous shipowners specialising in the transport of sodium nitrate between Chile and France.
Adding infamy to its history, Nellcôte served as the headquarters of the local Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of France in the early 1940s, with the floor vents in the basement reportedly being decorated with swastikas.
The story of Nazi occupation is almost certainly a canard, starting from the swastikas that decorate the heating vents. The swastika however was a common motif in Belle Epoque designs. The Germans weren't in the south of France long enough. From June 1940 to September 1943, Villefranche-sur-Mer was under first Vichy, then Italian control. The Nazi occupation only began after that — and they left again in August 1944. With the war turning against them and an invasion expected on the Cote d’Azur it seems unlikely that the Germans would have spent those 11 months getting local foundries to knock up custom cast-iron ventilation grates adorned with a swastika motif. Nor is there any record of a Gestapo HQ in Villefranche. The Gestapo made its headquarters in Nice, where they were busy torturing resistance members and Jews at the Hermitage and Excelsior.
It is presently owned by a Russian national, who purchased it for 100 million euros ($128 million) in 2005.
The house can't be seen from the street, but can be seen from the water.
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