On May 11th 1879, the first railway train from St Nazaire-to le Croisic stopped in La Bôle, an almost deserted village in the middle of dunes planted with pine trees. There stood the station of Escoublac, near a customs office, a hut rather, between Pornichet, Guérande and Le Pouliguen, directly linked to this line.
BURIAL OF ESCOUBLAC
At the time of Restoration, the persisting threat of constantly spreading sands inland brought the local administration to encourage dune planting. The dunes were successively given to several companies in charge of the business, with the deal that the dunes would become their property if successful. The sum of work to be done was huge: 700 hectares of resinous dunes to be planted, forming the seashore beam which would link the former islands of Le Croisic, Batz and Le Pouliguen, to the table-land of Guerande. For the continental part, this was done by the Benoit company which gave its name to this area of La Baule, and for the rest by the Dunes company ( la Société des Dunes), managed by a businessman from Nantes called Mr Berthault. The seaside resort of La Baule was born from the events of these plantations and the creation of the railway station.
THE BIRTH OF LA BAULE (1879-1914)
Until 1879, Escoublac was not so much concerned with the tourist
phenomenon that appeared as early as 1830 in Le Croisic. Only
the fringes of the large sandy lands saw the beginning of a town
planning, linked to the development of the neighbour sea resorts:
Le Pouliguen – for the Benoit area – and the old Pornichet,
a far-off hamlet of Saint-Nazaire which soon took its independence
with its Escoublac satellite: Pornichet-Les pins. At the same
time, two Parisians, Mss Hennecart and Darlu, representing the
company in charge of the building of the railway, were stuck by
the exceptionally interesting situation of the station, in the
middle of 1800 acres of pine-trees, close to an 8km-long lovely
curved bay. They decided to buy a hundred acres of dunes in La
Bôle and to set up a company with the participation of local
businessmen and shopkeepers, so as to make up a whole sea-resort.
Between these two centres, a vast woodland lied deserted until 1895 when the Dunes company sold it to the « Société des Instituts Marins » (company of the sea institute) founded by the Pavie family from Paris, which bought it to set up a health centre for tuberculous children from wealthy families. These promoters had in mind to attract these families regularly and to incite them to invest. A web of avenues was established in this aim whereas Mr Pavie used the many new techniques on his land : audacious design of the sea institute, setting up of mail and telegraph services, the first one in the resort, of an electric factory (1900) and a tramway that linked the stations of the bay. Soon, many new houses were built. The Sea Institute was turned into a Palace (1902) near which a Casino was established in 1904. The Pavie area, with the creation of another luxury hotel in 1908, had soon a fashionable character which will prevail.
THE GREAT STRIDE
The first world war stopped any tourist activity in 5 years
and had unexpected consequences in the Guerande peninsula. This
one was an important garrison, landing and resting centre for
the allied Force, so that in the following years, it faced a great
rush of British tourists, as mentioned in the names of the new
hotels (Cecil - Morgane - Select etc...). This rush of foreigners
was enhanced by the wish of French people to have a rest after
years of bad time. So the tourist phenomenon increased, oriented
in La Baule by three people: Mss André, Lajarrige and Pavie.
The first one acted mainly in the area of the land company (the
former Sea Institute) and gave more strength to its mundane character.
First, in 1920 he took possession of the casino with a 20-year
concession, he transformed it and added luxury stores around it.
Then he created two new luxury hotels and high-quality sports
grounds: the Interclubs tennis-club, a horse-riding school, a
pigeon shooting centre, an18-hole golf in Le Pouliguen.
Mr Lajarrige’s action was different; It mainly consisted
in developing the resort up to the Bois d'Amour. In this aim,
this Parisian businessman bought this land to the Dunes company
in 1921, parcelled it out and built on it. At the same time, to
his demand, the railway from Pornichet to La Baule which was running
along the coast and therefore prevented any tourist development,
was diverted inland. The new resort, La Baule-les -pins, was organised
round a star-like central square, the ”Place des Palmiers”
(palm-trees) and an shopping avenue that joined the station to
the sea, “avenue des Tilleuls” (lime-trees).
RECESSION AND RENEWAL
The 1929 crisis stroke the resort of La Baule. The forecast
investments were suspended. International tourism disappeared