The gates of Nellcôte in August 2008
10 Avenue Louise Bordes|
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.
Nellcôte was leased from April 1971 to October 1973 by Keith Richards, guitarist of The Rolling Stones. Richards lived in the house only until late August 1971, after which date he left France due to legal problems. When Richards left France, the government ordered him to maintain the rent on the property. On October 15th, 1973, Richards was found guilty of trafficking cannabis by a Court in Nice, and he was given a one-year suspended sentence and a 5,000 franc fine and also banned from entering France for two years. Recording sessions for the band's classic 1972 album Exile on Main St. took place in its basement.
It is presently owned by a Russian national, who purchased it for 100 million euros ($128 million) in 2005.
While the house is not visible from the street, it can be seen from the water.
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