Neuchatel, Switzerland (Capital) - Encyclopedia

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NEUCHATEL, capital of the above Swiss canton, situated near the north-east corner of the lake of Neuchatel. It is the meeting-point of several important railway lines, from Bern past Kerzers (27 m.), from Bienne (19 m.), from La Chaux de Fonds (19 m.), from Pontarlier (in France), by the Val de Travers, (332 m.), and from Yverdon (23 m.). The railway station (1575 ft.) at the top of the town is connected by an electric tramway with the shore of the lake some 150 ft. lower. The older portion of the town is built on the steep slope of the Chaumont, and originally the waters of the lake bathed the foot of the hill on which it stood. But the gradual growth of alluvial deposits, and more recently the artificial embankment of the shore of the lake, have added much dry ground, and on this site the finest modern buildings have been erected. The 16th-century castle and the 13th-century collegiate church of Notre Dame (now Protestant) stand close together and were founded in the 12th century when the counts took up their permanent residence in the town, to which they granted a charter of liberties in 12 14. Among the buildings on the quays are the Musee des Beaux Arts (modern Swiss paintings and also various historical collections, including that of Desor relating to the Lake Dwellings), the Gymnase or College Latin (in which is also the museum of natural history and the town library), the university (refounded in 1866 and raised from the rank of an academy to that of a university in 1909), the Ecole de Commerce and the post office. The town owes much to the gifts of citizens. Thus David de Purry (1709-1786) founded the town hospital and built the town hall, while James de Purry bequeathed to the town the villa in which the ethnographical museum has been installed (1904). In 1811 J. L. de Pourtales (1722-1814) founded the hospital which bears his name, while in 1844 A. de Meuron (1789-1852) constructed the lunatic asylum at Prefargier, a few miles from the town. Among natives of the town are.the theologians J. F. Ostervald (1663-1747) and Frederic Godet (1812-1900), the geologist E. Desor (1811-1882), the local historian G. A. Matile (1807-1881) and the politicians A. M. Piaget (1802-1870) and Numa Droz (1844-1899). Neuchatel (partly because very good French is spoken there) attracts many foreign students, while the town is a literary centre. In 1900 Neuchatel numbered 20,843 inhabitants (in 1850 only 7727 and in 1870, 12,683), 15,277 being French-speaking and 4553 German-speaking; there were 17,237 Protestants, 3459 Romanists and 80 Jews. (W. A. B. C.)

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