At the beginning of the XIX-th century, the seaside situated on the west of the river Paillon, was still a swampy moor. Some houses began to align themselves along the road of France, connecting Nice with the bridge of the Var. Rich Frenchmen and foreigners, for the greater part English, got used to staying during winter in the new district Croix-de-Marbre - Newborough-, where they had their cemetery, their Anglican Church, their hotels and pensions. Several members of this "colony", moved by the distress of the local population, multiplied acts of charity, as well as proselyte actions, supervised by fantastically wealthy reverend, Lewis Way, whom the inhabitants of Nice nicknamed "Louis d’or" (golden Louis). In order to give some work to the inhabitants of Nice and especially to be able to take advantage of a comfortable and hygienic, maritime and panoramic walk, winter holiday-makers clubbed together and made realize in 1824 a Beach road in front of their district. It was only a modest levelled road, two metres wide, which ran along the sea from the mouth of Paillon until the level of the current street Meyerbeer. From a private and foreign initiative, was born la Strada del littorale as mentionned in the official acts and Camin dei Anglés in the nissart language.
The foreigners preferred the right bank where new constructions could extend quickly, in1835, the city decided to take in charge the expenses of the road of the English and to buy the adjoining grounds. In 1844, the track was enlarged to four metres and ran till the valley Saint Philippe, under the naming of " street of the coast of the English ". The enjoyment of the site came mainly at that time from rich villas built in the middle of parks and private gardens at the north side of the way. In order to protect them from the sea and also to align them, the city hall made proceed, in 1854-1856, to a new enlargement of six metres partially taken on the properties. It also made prolong the way, that was named henceforth Promenade des Anglais (Walk of the English), up to the valley of Magnan.

Thanks to subsidies assigned by the Second Empire, the Malausséna* municipality could realize important works in 1862: a dozen metres was gained on the beach thanks to a wall in masonry three metres high. Until 1930, the Promenade des Anglais presented on its width a north pavement of three metres, then a unique way of eleven metres, lined in the South by a path - walk of fifteen metres, planted by a double border of palm trees, pepperpots, oleanders and eucalyptus, among which extend flowery flowerbeds. In 1862, the two kilometres long walk was already provided with lanterns to allow the night-lighting. The parish of St. Helena was reached in 1878, Carras in 1882, the Var in 1903.

Bit by bit, the city caught up the villas. They were destroyed as well as their gardens, for the benefit of luxury hotels and casinos, motor concessionaires and travel agencies, residential buildings. This massive urbanization of the sea front led to an increase of car traffic which became already unbearable in the 1920s. So, from 1929 till 1931, Jean Médecin municipality made proceed to gigantic works between the Opera and boulevard Gambetta which confered to the Walk its current look. About fifteen metres was again taken on the beach. They correspond to the new south pavement, under the vaults of which were fitted out the installations for the establishments of baths. Henceforth, two ten metre large, one-sided ways for vehicles were separated by a central, five metre large ground. Candelabras, ornamental masts and brilliant fountains in concrete imitating marble assured a magic lighting. Prince of Connaught, king George V’s brother and duchess de Vendôme personally came to inaugurate the new triumphant way of Nice on January 29, 1931, sealing the French-English friendship in this symbolic place, created by the British and glorified by France.

In 1949-1953, the extension was pursued from boulevard Gambetta up to the district Ferber. The Walk was then five kilometres long. The 1930s style electric equipment was replaced in 1955 by the double necklace of seven hundred brilliant globes which still illuminate the night on the Walk. Henceforth, a long littoral communication route connects the port with the airport, serves the large boulevards giving access to all the districts of the city. Triumphant way in and out of the town, the Promenade has become a parking area and an axis of traffic on which vehicles cross themselves ceaselessly. The municipality multiplies the projects and attempts of improvement to give back to the Walk the peace esssential for a space of relaxation.

Collectif : La Promenade des Anglais, Nice Historique, 1993, 1-2.

Jean-Paul POTRON

 

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