The Villa’s History

While enjoying the comfort of your room or the common areas´ you might wonder how this building became as it is today.You will see that Villa Belle Rive has an eventful history.



37 In January 1863 Henri Courmont bought the land on which Villa Belle Rive is built. He was second in charge to his close friend Prosper Mérimée, the general inspector for historical monuments under Napoleon III. In this capacity Courmont assigned many prestigious projects to the notable architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Amongst these the restoration of the Notre Dame in Paris, several basilica and castles. In a letter to Viollet-le-Duc dating January 6, 1863, Mérimée (from his residence in Cannes) writes ”[…] Dantes makes me look forward to your visit. He tells me you have a church to inspect in Nice […]. Amongst other things I believe you have a house to build for Courmont”.

The correspondence suggests that this famous architect was involved in the design of Villa Belle Rive. Other documentation to confirm this still has to be found. It is however documented that Viollet-de-Duc designed and build the Courmont House – the residence of Henri Courmont in Paris. The Villa is now listed for its historical value in the “base Mérimée” – the list of French cultural heritage which is thusly named after a frequent guest in Villa Belle Rive. As Courmont was part of the inner circle of friends of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, it is likely that she was also a guest.

37Courmont´s widow sold Villa Belle Rive and in June 1900, the Anglo Swiss Land & Building Company became the owner. Before coming to Cannes the only shareholder, François-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke, was the concessionary for Lever Brothers (now Unilever). He brought Sunlight Soap and other products to the European main land. He also held the Swiss concession for the cinematograph from the Lumière brothers and served as director/camera man in many early productions, including Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Lavanchy-Clarke is recognized as the first person in the world to use film for promotional purposes (brand placing of Sunlight Soap). He later dedicated himself to building workshops for blind people. His grandson donated two hundred original Lumière films, that had remained with the family, to the Archive du Centre National de la Cinématographie.

After the passing of François Lavanchy-Clarke, Villa Belle Rive entered a period with only few notable events. During Word-War II it was occupied by the German Army and suffered damage from a bombardment.
37This changed when the grandson, Jack-William Lavanchy, made the Villa part of his key position in the recreational scuba diving industry. Since the 1965 he was the importer of a main brand of scuba diving equipment. In 1983 he brought the American diver training organisation PADI to Europe. in 1986 Villa Belle Rive became the location for teaching diving instructors – the PADI European College.
PADI developed at an enormous rate. In 1994 the “mission” of the PADI European College was completed. The faboulus infrastructure for teaching was then rented to Daniela Goldstein who has been running diving courses in Villa Belle Rive since then.
Jacky brought many of the industries key players to Villa Belle Rive. This includes Hans and Lotte Hass, Jean-Michel Cousteau and many others. Key events in the industry, such as the founding of the European Underwater Federation took place in Villa Belle Rive. Jacky passed away on January 27, 2016.