The construction of the half-timbered villa at Riederfurka

In the summer of 1899, the most important discussions took place about the construction of the planned summer residence at Riederfurka. With the sense of style of those days and perhaps the Victorian tastes of his client in mind, Cassel’s architect designed a manor house that got its half-timbered character from the fine board work on the façade. And as the Rieder parish priest Ignaz Seiler emphasized, it «fits into the scenery like a 5 franc piece on a cowpat».

 

A Construction site 2000 meters above sea level
Shortly after that, the transportation of the building materials started. The farmers were glad to get one of their rare chances to earn some money by transporting the goods from Mörel to Riederfurka. The farmers received about two francs per cement bag, which was hard-earned money when you consider that the ascent of about 1,200 vertical meters (3,937 vertical feet) took about three to four hours without any baggage at all. Or just think about transporting Sir Cassel’s piano up to the villa from the Rhone valley - four detachments of four men each struggled for two whole days until the perfect example of elitist society romanticism had found its place in the drawing room.

Only local building materials (stone and wood) were used in the construction. Whereas the stone was quarried nearby below Riederfurka, the wood was taken from the Teiffwald below the Aletsch Forest. For a while they used lime mortar from the lime kiln at the edge of the Aletsch Glacier. But soon it was replaced by cement of higher quality from the Rhone Valley.

 

A villa with 25 rooms
In the basement were the kitchen, wine cellar, pantry, workshop and housekeeping rooms. On the first floor were the dining room, drawing room, smoking room and Sir Cassel’s “office”. On the second and third floors were the spacious bedrooms of the Cassel family and their guests. And finally in the attic, accessible only by a narrow stairway, were the modest chambers of the valets, ladies’ maids and servants. The curved broad stairway in the tower of the villa, which connected the first floor with the second and third, was reserved for the Cassel family and their guests.

The interior décor was also sumptuous - magnificent parquet floors, paneled ceilings with neatly painted marble-effect on the wood and expensive fabric wallpaper were complemented with furniture from Geneva and household goods from all over Central Europe. So it is not hard to imagine the way of life of these ladies and gentlemen at that time...