July 9, 2018

The Chateau History

History of the Chateau De Pourtales

In 1750, the Château was first constructed as a small manor house nestled in the neighborhood of Robertsau, an agricultural suburb of Strasbourg. The preeminent construction contractor to the King of France, Joseph Guerault, found himself in need of a quiet place to relax from his arduous duties of building fortifications for the city of Strasbourg. The Guerault family happily enjoyed the home and the tranquility of its surrounding forest until 1802, when it was sold to Baron Paul-Athanase Renouard de Bussierre. The Baron married the daughter of a prominent Strasbourg banker and nobleman, and they expanded the manor into a gracious Château.

The third generation brought Mélanie, the Château’s namesake. Daughter of the Viscount and wife to Count Edmond de Pourtalès, Countess Mélanie was exceedingly beautiful and had a reputation for peerless grace. She elevated her social standing to its pinnacle when she became a member of Empress Eugenie’s Paris Imperial Court and subsequently associated with many distinguished intellectuals and artists of her time. Renowned for garden parties and receptions she frequently hosted, Countess Mélanie gathered Europe’s most notable elite and nobility right here at the Château de Pourtalès for intellectual and cultural exchange.

Between 1870 and 1914 Château de Pourtalès was an important meeting center of European nobility, whom were invited to the Château by the Countess Mélanie and the Earl Pourtalès. There were many visitors of nobility, some of them you may recognize: Albert Schweitzer, Franz Liszt, Napoléon III, Queen Eugenie, Princess from Belgium and Russia, Ludwig I from Bavaria, the Grand Duke from Baden and the Duke Metternich, just to name a few.

The Château has been persevered through several wars, suffering fire damage during the French-German War in 1870 and serving as an army hospital during the same conflict. The two World Wars were also difficult, for it was held by the Germans in WWI as “enemy property”. Private owners closed the Château in 1939 without plans to reopen. During WWII, the Chateau it was confiscated and housed high-ranking German officers, before being occupied by Allied Forces for a short period following the war.

After the war, the chateau spent many years in such disrepair that it was scheduled for demolition by the City of Strasbourg in the 1970s. Dr. Walter Leibrecht recogniyed the cultural value of the property and began renovations to open it as a new study location for the university students. The Château de Pourtalès has remained in the Leibrecht Family ever since and has served as an international study center for over 40 years.