In 1879, against the Municipality’s opinion, prefect Raynet de Brancion gave his agreement for the construction of a casino in front of the Public garden onto a platform of 6 500 m2, built on the sea at the end of a 130 meter bridge connecting it with the shore. It was the second casino of the city of Nice, the first onr being that of Léopold Amat, built in 1867 on the Promenade des Anglais which went bankrupt. From the start, the project was in competition with another project of casino which the Parisian architect Lazard had launched on the place Masséna with the agreement of the Municipality.

The project of the casino of the pier - promenade by Mr D' Espouy de Saint Paul, on the plans of the English architect James Brunlers, vice-president of the Institute of the civil engineers of London, was led to execution, after some modifications, by a corporation by actions. An English entrepreneur took care of its construction for a fixed price of three million francs. The English casinos such as the Palace Pier of Brighton served certainly as model.

The summit of its dome reached 20 meters of height, surmounted by a spire. But, on April 4, 1883, a fire destroyed the building which should be inaugurated some days later.

A French - Belgian group resumed the project. A new license was given in 1889 by the prefect for the reconstruction. The Parisian cabinet of architecture Denise was in charge of the plans whereas the technical realization was given to the Parisian metal engineer Meyer. It was a company from Levallois-Perret that had already supplied the metal parts of the Eiffel Tower, which supplied those of the casino. A company from Nice, Dumontel and Tombarel, engineers - mechanics, was in charge of the putting together. The part in masonry was in cement and bricks. The platform was raised at 2 meters 10 above the sea level and supported by 250 pilotis of cast iron. At the top of the dome, amounted to 35 meters, was a siren made of zinc, stamped by gold and armed with a trident. Turrets and minarets stood out on the horizon. Certain Inhabitants of Nice criticized the building because it masked the sight of the bay of the Angels. The casino was inaugurated on January 10, 1891, in the absence of the municipal authorities

Afterward, the inside was embellished by ornamental decorations by Mathon, member of the Academy of Fine Art. In 1907, under the supervision of Louis Tessier, the function of gaming room was added to that of village hall and concert hall. New galleries wrre constructed.

At the beginning of the First World war, the building sheltered wounded soldiers, then, in 1915 , found again its festive vocation.

Appreciated or criticized, the casino took its place in the landscape of Nice: it became one of the most characteristic buildings of the city, represented on picture postcards or on advertising posters. Painter Raoul Dufy made of it a favourite subject of his canvases. It was the silhouette one recognized by far, standing out on the sea, with its style of seaside exoticism. The Germans proceeded to its destruction during the Occupation in 1944 , but " the Pier - Promenade " remained present in the memory of the Inhabitants of Nice.


Moreau Guy Junien : Le Casino de la Jetée-Promenade, Ed. Giletta, Nice, 1993, 103 p.

Véronique THUIN

 

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