The “hôtel particulier”

In 1859, Alfred Sommier’s father, acquired a large building plot on rue de l’Arcade, close to la Madeleine. He wished to settle there his family, in a mansion matching with the prosperity of the family-run sugar business. At the time, the district of the Madeleine was on going the Baron Haussmann’s Parisian building developments.

The Sommier reached out to Joseph Lesoufaché, a renowned architect of the Second Empire. He designed two twin buildings made of cut stone with a courtyard and a garden at the back. Alfred settles himself on the 20 rue de l’Arcade. Descendants of the Sommier family still own the building and one of them, transformed it into the hotel and now operates it.

Many elements of the original interior decor have been preserved in the rooms and suites, and in Alfred Sommier’s former office and salons. His monogram is wrought inside the staircases iron railings. Two caryatids support one of the grand marble staircases.

The Sommier family

At the beginning of the 19th century, three entrepreneurial Sommier brothers left their roots in Burgundy, along with their family-run bakery business, to open a sugar refinery in Paris. The youngest brother fell in love with his eldest brother’s daughter! Hence, the couple ended up with a large share of the company. The couple had two children: Alfred, born in 1835 and Anne born in 1837; their portraits hang side by side in the hotel lobby.

Alfred was gifted. At the age of 18, he stopped his studies when his father handed the family business over to him. The sugar refinery thrived under his management to become the leader of the French market. He settled himself in the “hôtel particulier” on 20 rue de l’Arcade and was joined in 1872 by his wife Jeanne de Barante. Their son Edme was born there in 1873. 

In the 20th century, Sommier Sugars merged with Lebaudy Sugars. As a result of further mergers, the group is known today as Saint-Louis Sucre, but the original families have no remaining interests in the business.

Castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte

In 1875, Alfred Sommier bought for 2,3 million golden francs the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte which had been left abandoned and threatened to be demolished. It had been built by Fouquet, Louis XIV’s Superintendant of Finances, who was arrested the day following the dazzling reception where he hosted the King.

Alfred Sommier brilliantly restored the castle and its gardens so that Vaux-le-Vicomte can be recognized as the most beautiful private castle in France. Its legacy was handed down to Patrice de Vogüé and his sons, descendants of Alfred Sommier.