© Groupe en visite autour du lac de Bagnoles de l'Orne | Bagnoles Tourisme

Guided tour of the town

The history of Bagnoles de l'Orne

The town of Bagnoles de l’Orne officially became an independent commune in 1913. How did this resort, which was originally built on the site of three separate communities, develop around the lake? To find out, we joined a guided tour organised by the tourist office.

Bagnoles Lake

It was with some surprise that we learnt that the lake at Bagnoles de l’Orne was dug in 1611. It was located in the middle of the Forêt des Andaines and was intended to supply water to an iron foundry below. At this time, it covered 17 acres, which is double its current size. At the end of the 18th century, a hundred and twenty workers worked in around 15 buildings at the iron foundry.
But in 1811 there was a violent storm over Bagnoles, the waters of the lake rose very fast and the dam failed. The flood devastated the foundry and swept away the forging hammer, which weighed nearly a ton! The lake no longer had an economic use. The dam was repaired, but the banks became fields. It only was much later but the lake that we know today became an area for relaxation and holidaymakers.

From the Casino des Thermes to the Grand Hotel

In 1888 the director of the thermal spa, Georges Hartog, had a wooden casino built on the banks of the lake at the request of Alexis Duparchy, the main shareholder of the Société d’Exploitation des Eaux de Bagnoles. In 1908, a more permanent building called the “Casino des Thermes” replaced the first construction. In 1989, this was demolished and replaced by the present Hôtel du Béryl.

In 1898 the Grand Hôtel was openedto accommodate wealthy spa goers. Ten years after the creation of the casino, the first luxury hotel was opened in Bagnoles. The building was four stories high with two long façades that stretched for eighty-two metres. A sixty-metre-long terrace with a grand double staircase led to a large park that surrounded the lake.

The hotel had two hundred rooms with telephones and bathrooms. On the ground floor, there were three salons in Louis XIV style and a so-called “Renaissance” dining room of two hundred covers with a veranda and lit by sumptuous electric chandeliers. In the basement there were coffee lounges and billiard rooms.

At this time, the Grand Hôtel not only had electricity but also a lift, luggage lift, dumb waiters, electric fans, and hot and cold water on all floors! However, the hotel was occupied during the Second World War and eventually abandoned. Today, having become “La Résidence du Lac”, the building is divided into flats.

The creation of an independent commune

Although the resort boomed at the end of the 19th century, the town of Bagnoles still did not exist! Before 1913, Bagnoles de l’Orne did not really have its own identity as it was on land that belonged to three different communes.
The right bank of the Vée (including the lake), Vieux-Bagnoles and the Hôtel des Thermes were part of Tessé la Madeleine. The station, the racecourse and the Belle Epoque Quarter belonged to La Ferté Macé. Meanwhile the spring and the baths at the thermal spa were in Couterne.

The inhabitants, who had three different local authorities to deal with, did not like the situation that lasted for a number of years. The communes failed to agree a solution, despite numerous petitions. This political situation worried the French state and the Prefect of the region was asked to look at it. The only possible solution was to vote in a law that would sanction the creation of a new town. On 29 June 1913, Bagnoles de l’Orne came into being.

The development of the lake between the wars

Let’s go on the guided tour around the lake through the pleasure gardens laid out by the American billionaire Frank Jay Gould. This businessman fell in love with the resort during the 1920s, decided to move here and invest in the leisure attractions of Bagnoles de l’Orne. He wanted to monetise the resources of the site by constructing the buildings needed for luxury tourism.

In 1927, he acquired the Lac de Bagnoles and the land around it. He bought and modernised the Grand Hôtel and built a second casino, the Casino du Lac. He even undertook to reshape the lake which at the time resembled the shape of a stomach. He asked the town’s authorities to name the bridge over the lake after him, but when this was refused he left Bagnoles for good, even though he had completed a great deal of the work!

If you walk around the gardens and lake you will have covered around 800 m without even noticing.

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5,00 €

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This tour is only available in French without translations.
Translated booklets are available from the tourist office.

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