The birth of the resort in 1881
Although people had come to Bagnoles to take the waters since the end of the 17th century, it was only 200 years later that tourism really took off. In 1881, the town was booming as the railway arrived to connect Bagnoles de l’Orne with Paris.
Hotels were built to accommodate “the bathers”, who were arriving in large numbers, and cafés, restaurants and luxury boutiques were opened. The resort acquired a casino, tennis club and golf course, and even a racecourse.
Bagnoles became the fashionable new holiday resort for the Parisian bourgeoisie, who were keen to acquire a second home here in Normandy so they could make the most of the waters, enjoy the fresh air in the forest and take part in the many sporting and cultural activities of the town.
The construction of the Belle Epoque Quarter in 1886
Albert Christophle – a local man who had become Minister of Public Works and owned an estate agency – wanted to promote the town and spa resort. In 1886, he decided to create a new quarter to accommodate holidaymakers
The estate was built on a 106 acre site in the Forêt des Andaines, between the spa and the railway station. The quarter was arranged around a central square with three parallel boulevards with four roads at right angles to them.
To ensure that the whole area was in the same style, Albert Christophle drew up a strict project specification illustrated by two neighbouring villas that exemplified the style and tone of the architecture of Bagnoles.
The villa “Le Castel”, which was built in 1903 by the architect Léon Bernard, is still undoubtedly the most surprising. Classed as a “catalogue house”, it has a remarkable number of decorative features that were designed to serve as a reference.
The lavish villas of Bagnoles de l’Orne
Although these watering-place-style villas are all different, they do have a number of common features, including a simple layout, a slate roof and stonework in Armoricain sandstone. The doors and windows are highlighted with brick, wood and enamel, and there are many balconies, bow-windows and awnings.
Albert Christophle specified an architectural style that evoked holidays, but also the colours of Bagnoles: red, green, yellow and blue, each of which had its own significance.
In 1991, the Belle Epoque Quarter was classified as a conservation area for its urban and rural architecture, and in 2018 it became a heritage development area. This enables its architecture and remarkable style to be fully protected.