November 8, 2009

Villas on the Promenade. Number 13-15: Palais de la Méditerranée

From this palace, built in 1927, only the façade and entrance have been preserved. It was designed as a prestigious casino hotel by the Charles Dalmas, who had already designed several grand hotels in Nice, after an original idea by J. Aletti, a famous French hotel owner. The project was financed by the American billionaire Frank-Jay Gould, who had launched the nearby seaside resort of Juan-les-Pins and was owner of a string of casinos and hotels on the French Riviera. Its Art Deco façade, made from beige Lens limestone, has some truly magnificent bas-reliefs sculptures by Antoine Sartorio.

Under Dalmas's careful eye and direction, it was constructed in one year with the assistance of 350 workers and inaugurated on 10 January 1929 after some difficulties in obtaining a gambling licence, and was a beautiful example of Art Deco. A 1,000-seat theatre made up of stalls surrounded by baignoires, with boxes and loges above, and yet another level forming a balcony, attracted the greatest names in the world of Arts and Entertainment, among them Maurice Chevalier, Jules Romain, Edith Piaf and Josephine Baker.

After the glitz and glamour of the 1930s, the grandeur of the Palais gradually declined, especially after it had been ravaged by fire in 1934. Gould then decided to rent it to a development company, Société Fermière du Palais de la Méditerranée who managed it until it finally closed its doors in April 1978 due to financial difficulties. Vandalized, the building was demolished in May 1990 by mechanical shovels that left a gaping hole. Its two façades became a listed monument in extremis in August 1989.

It reopened in January 2004, following a multi-million Euro restoration overseen by Concorde Hotels & Resorts. Now there is at the ground floor a casino and a 4 star hotel that looks out onto a large indoor swimming pool at the sea-side. At the back of this complex they built the following apartment buildings: 'Le Baccara', 'Le Belle-Epoque', 'Le Riviera', and 'Le Palace' who look out onto a private garden and find their entrance at the Rue de France, parallel to the Promenade.

If you like to read more about the Palais de la Méditerrnanée, I can recommend you the book 'La Promenade des Anglais, History and reminiscences', which can be purchased for only a few euros in the museum shop of the Massena Museum. Then you can read also about the unsolved mystery around the Palais.

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