The first settlers on this area of Martinique were the Beaupré de Saint Aubin, who gave their name to the small island that faces the Domaine : all their grounds were devoted very early to the sugarcanes cultivation. Due to their royalist convictions, they were dispossed during the revolution by the French nation which sold the main part of their property to the Huygues - Despointes, still very active within our local economy in this starting 21st century.
This « Béké » family (a nickname given to the original planters in the FrenchWest Indies -issued from a west-african language, the word simply means « white man »-) made the Martinique architect Pamphyle build their prestigious home in 1919.
He used the first techniques of reinforced cement to produce these varangues with carved-like columns “a la Louisianaise” imitating the work of a joiner circa 1865. The walls are made of cemented volcanic rocks to which an inner veneer of chiseled wood was added in order to bring both aesthetism and thermical isolation, whereas the posts that support the house inside, seeming to be in cast-iron, are in fact in northern wood. The turn from XIXth to XXth century blends here techniques, materials and lines as well.
Though this wide plantation, coming down to the ocean between Ste Marie and Trinité, has been divided and/or sold to countrymen during the last century (the sugarcanes still being used by the St James distillery), the manor and its secondary buildings on their 20000 square meters park called “Castle Despointes”, remained nevertheless a private property till the late 70’s when one last old lady, alone among her servants, was living here from a large orchard, a kitchen-garden and a small breeding, drinking the spring-water that still flows nowadays, in a creole atmosphere that one could write a novel with.
Closed for several years, abandoned to the aggressive tropical weather and it‘ s overwhelming vegetation, the old mansion gained the reputation of being haunted, a rumor reinforced by the hitchcockesque roof that people could see from the road through the iron gate.
The buildings were then transformed into a tourism hotel but in a rather unnatural way (outside walls painted in pink, false ceilings of synthetic material, glued moquettes and linoleums). Inactive business and lack of repairing accentuated the sink: the place had been to be sold unsuccessfully for a decade when Joëlle and Laurent Rosemain durst to buy it.
They decided to give a rebirth of authenticity and pomp to this creole manor: family Martinique furniture in mahogany, 19th century decoration and small curios, roughcasting with the original colours of ivory and vanilla, drawings about colonial life, etc…
Since then, half a dozen of historical movies have used Le Domaine Saint Aubin as a scenery.
Linked to the master mansion, suspended with a summer lounge, a large terrace was notably created, exactly reproducing the old columns and pilasters. Then the ancient stables of the twin houses are reinstated into bedrooms, surrounded by those same corbellings that become the very image of a “renaissance” for this element of the historical and architectural patrimony of Martinique.
Parisian by heart though originated from Calabria (Italy), certificated from a notorious French show-business school, Joëlle has been a costumier from operas (Carmen, Aïda, Cosi Fan Tutti, The Merchant of Venice) during a long time before becoming chief of the hats workshop at La Comédie Française. Next, she created and ran for ten years one of the best Italian delicatessen-take away of Paris, listed in famous French gastronomical guide Pudlowski or covered by the two main news magazines L’Express and Le Nouvel Observateur. You will envoy at Le Domaine Saint Aubin her taste for historical and theatrical decoration, her skill in using colors and handling textures, her knowledge about warm savors and spicy flavors.
Parisian too whereas his father family has been living in the French West Indies at least since the 1690’s, owner of two Masters from the Sorbonne University, Laurent has been a professional musician in the capital city for twenty years while funding and managing one of the most important French drums-percussions school. He used to record albums and to perform with his own Jazz band in palaces like Hôtel Georges V, Hôtel Crillon, the Fouquet’s, Pavillon Ledoyen, Hôtel Intercontinental. You will share with colonial and European cultures or about the Jazz artists he is peculiarly fond of.
His oldest known ancestor was Jean Adrien “Volange” Rosemain*, born in 1715. We know that he was one of the first “free coloured” men of Martinique, that he was the owner of his shoemaker shop in St Pierre (the most important town at the time) and that he even knew how to read and write at this very early period of the colony, as his firm and clear signing on official papers let us guess. This fact is surprising enough to suppose that he was the son of a white planter and his black slave (a rather romantic hypothesis …), born or deported to Martinique around 1690. He could have been freed by his father who gave education to him, an usual way to show affection and to accept an union without legitimating it. The other opportunity to become a free man (a more realistic hypothesis but not incompatible with the former one …) was to free oneself by oneself : we are talking about the “nigger with talent”, a person whose peculiar manual skill, coupled with a good craftsmanship, associated to a professional mind, made him such a strong point for the plantation (carpenter, mason, blacksmith) or the dwelling (tailor, shoe-maker, harness-maker) that either his master decided to free him because of the esteem his loyal services had generated, or that the slave kept selling his personal gifts to people from the outside during his rare vacant hours, to by himself from his master after years of economy.
A different and interesting lineage was brought by Laurent’s great-great-grand father, whose family name was Subramanian, chief of a village in south India, who was captured around 1850 to be hired by force in Guadeloupe just after the slavery had been abolished in 1848: the common method was to invite families naively following their notables on boats, make them drink rhum and then weigh the anchor while these unfortunate people, never used to drink alcohol, were deeply asleep !
*The name “Rosemain”, formerly a Christian name, takes its origins in what it today Burkina-Faso, where it is still used in bush villages : like the very large majority of the other French-Caribbean patronyms, it was given as a family name, for clear practical purposes, to a freed slave who had then only this way to be named, since being considered as a movable property, he had no civil condition before.