The Amazing Pier and Crystal Casino of old Nice, France

Written by on October 19, 2013 in French Icons, Provence-Alpes

old nice france

The amazing history of an incredible and beautiful crystal palace in Nice which no longer exists except in paintings, postcards and a few old photographs…

The town of Nice in the south of France has long attracted admirers from around the world.  It has been that way for a long time; the construction of the Promenade des Anglais in 1820 certainly reflected the fact that the Brits loved to come here for the winter sun and summer fun (they still do).

The attractions of Nice were many, a lovely beach, though at that time the Victorians were not that keen to actually getting into the water, they preferred to look at it. Sunbathing and swimming came much later when wealthy Americans discovered the French Riviera. The beautiful countryside, the weather, the food, the peaceful way of life -there was plenty to tempt foreigners to the shores of this once sleepy town.

old nice france

In the 1870s the council of Nice decided to add to the pleasures of Nice and, inspired by the Crystal Palace in London they asked for tenders to create a fabulous pier and casino. It was to have walkways, restaurants, lounges for afternoon tea, shops and a theatre. It would be somewhere to promenade with stunning sea views and was to be called the Palais de la Jetée – the palace of the pier, a true representative of the Belle Epoque.

After choosing an architect and builder, work finally began at the end of the 1870s. The planned building was sure to appeal to the British visitors, there were resemblances to the Brighton Palace as well as Crystal Palace; but there were dissenting voices about its design – “a monstrous jellyfish” said some. The building project was fraught with difficulty, various parties fell out and were replaced, the building took years to complete and went way over budget. Then disaster struck, a suspicious fire broke out just four days before the Pier was due to be opened to the public in April 1883 and it seemed that the crystal casino would never be finished.

Finally in 1891, 18 years after the idea was first raised, the  construction of the casino and pier was finished. It was said that at night when it was lit up it was a most incredible sight, seemingly floating out in the sea in the dark. Music could be heard drifting across the bay, operettas, vaudeville and orchestras;  the sound of laughter filled the air. The Crystal casino was, as predicted, a huge success with visitors.

old nice france

The Palais de la Jetée was though to have just a brief and splendid life. After rising from the first fire and being reborn in all its splendour, it was barely to survive 50 years.

Today the casino is no more and of the pier there remains just a fractured metal structure, broken and isolated in its watery surroundings.

The pier was closed in 1942 and stripped of its valuable metals, copper, brass, bronze and electric wiring, to be used by the German army. The government ordered its destruction. The Nice Pier and Casino, shops, gaming rooms, casino, theatre and restaurants were all demolished and the remains were left to rot in their watery grave.

old nice france

Hardly anything remains today to give any indication at all of its former glory. In fact you would never know the Palais de la Jetée in Nice had ever existed if it weren’t for the old postcards and photos that can be found on E-Bay. The chandelier that hangs in the Church of St Roche used to light the interior of the beautiful domed palace on the Pier and is one of a very few artefacts that survived. The paintings of Raol Dufy give an evocative feel for what it must have been like.

old nice france

Until now we can only imagine how the bay of Nice would have looked with its amazing crystal Palace, Mario Asso architects have created an image to give us an idea, and yes, it would still look fabulous.

casino-nice

 

Read about the Mid Day Canon of Nice
The Bay of Angels Nice
Cours Saleya Market Nice

Related Articles

South of France and Lavender tour of Provence

A nine-day tour of the south of France in July taking in the lavender fields of Provence which are at their blooming best… Medieval villages, magnificent castles, cafés with tables and chairs spilling out onto cobbled streets and little squares. Narrow streets lined with pastel coloured houses, shops and galleries. Gastronomic good, wonderful wines and […]

Continue Reading

Menton | Mediterranean charm and gastronomy

When life gives you lemons, it’s time to visit Menton. You can be sure that someone there will find a creative use for your fruit. Shops in the bustling traffic-free Rue St Michel teem with products from candles, soaps and soft toys to food and drink. The town’s claim to be lemon capital of the […]

Continue Reading

Gorbio | Stunning medieval village in Cote d’Azur, France

Gorbio, France is a hilltop medieval village, high-up above Menton, in the south-eastern corner of the Côte d’Azur. This picturesque village is a secret place, seemingly forgotten by tourists. As with other historic perched villages, Gorbio has an impressive view, 354 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. You’ll find it in the craggy mountain side of […]

Continue Reading

History of the French Flag

History of the French Flag

Written by on July 19, 2019 in French Icons

The French call their flag Le drapeau tricolore. English speakers know it as the French Tricolore. It’s one of the most iconic flags in European history. But how did it come to be? The evolution of the French Flag The flag of France before the French Revolution featured the fleur-de-lis on a blue background. The […]

Continue Reading

Antibes is always a good idea!

To paraphrase Audrey Hepburn’s famous quote, “Paris is always a good idea,” I have felt the same way about the enticing old town of Antibes since I first set foot there … let’s just say many decades ago. These days there are a lot of changes happening in the vieille ville. Progress is catching up […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top