Le Havre, World Heritage Site

Picture from Municipal Library Archives.

The stages of the reconstruction

The reconstruction of the city centre spread over a long period of time. Such an enormous building project went through numerous stages, from the presentation of the general plan to handing over the flats to lodgers.

1945: Choosing an architect in chief

  • January 1945: Auguste Perret is approached by Minister Raoul Dautry to head the reconstruction of Le Havre together with members of his Studio. The population of Le Havre will only be informed at the end of August.
  • 25th march 1945: Raoul Dautry, Minister of Reconstruction and Urbanism visits Le Havre.
  • May 1945: Auguste Perret, is unofficially designated architect in chief by the M.R.U. (Ministry of Reconstruction and Urbanism). His team sets out to work.
  • 3rd June 1945: the first temporary house built with salvaged materials is inaugurated.
  • 7th June 1945: Henri Colboc, holder of the Rome prize and local architect, presents his plan for the reconstruction of the city centre to the population, with the tacit approval of Félix Bruneau, local architect and urbanist, and of Pierre Voisin, Mayor. His project, a “strictly personal” one, has no official value.
  • 20th July 1945: The City Council approves the general dispositions of Félix Bruneau’s plan for urban design and lay-out programme.
  • 26th September 1945: The City Council holds a secret meeting at the request of the M.R.U.: it definitely adopts the part of Bruneau’s plan which does not concern the city centre, for which Auguste Perret presents his: it includes a raised platform, 3,50 metres from the ground, an order of 6,50 metres and shelter-balconies. The council defer their decision.
  • November 1945: The first prefabricated houses are delivered.

1945-1946: The plan of the Perret Studio

  • 30th November 1945:  Perret presents the City Council with the first projects of overall plan designed by his colleagues. The Council, worried about the raised platform suggested by the Perret Studio, ask the M.R.U. for arbitration.
  • 18th February 1946: François Billoux becomes Minister of the M.R.U. On January 1946, he accepts Bruneau’s plan and decides against the raised platform, needing too much work, time, money and cement.
  • 28th February 1946: The city Council approves the changes to Bruneau’s plan allowing the building of the architectural ensembles included in Perret’s final plan.

1946 – 1947: Building starts

  • 31 March 1946: François Billoux, Minister of the Reconstruction, lays the first stone of the first final building on the corner of Town Hall Square and Rue de Paris (I.S.A.I. Building Without Individual Attribution), taken over and pre-financed by the French State on the war damages to come.
  • July 1946: Henri Barhman replaces Félix Bruneau as Urbanist in Chief of the Le Havre Area.
  • August 1946: The Temporary Shopping Centre is set up on the Thiers Avenue. As part of the local public inquiry, the population is informed of the general project of reconstruction and development.
  • 7th September 1946: The City Council approves the suggested limits for the reconstruction project and the main dispositions for urban planning.
  • December 1946:  The general urbanism plan is declared to be in the public interest
  • End of 1946: the City Housing Department fits out the old American military camps in the Forest of Montgeon and on boulevard François 1er as lodgings for war victims.
  • April 1947: Actual beginning of building, the first foundation posts of the I.S.A.I. are beaten into the ground.

1948 – 1950: the first reconstructed buildings

  • August 1947: The first walls of the I.S.A.I. rise from the ground.
  • 9th February 1948: René Coty, Minister of the Reconstruction since 24th November 1947, visits the building sites and collects the grievances of the 40 000 people waiting for decent lodgings.
  • 10th March 1948: After the M.R.U. certifies new architects in 1947, a meeting is held to
  • distribute the blocks to be built in priority. The following proportions are decided upon: two group leaders members of the Perret Studio out of three architects working on one block (group leader and operation architects all included).
  • September 1948: Fifteen on-going building sites for a total of 1 000 flats.
  • 3rd December 1948: Eugène Claudius-Petit, minister of the reconstruction since 11th September, declares, in Le Havre, that the French reconstruction effort is inadequate, compared to that of other European countries.
  • January 1949: Creation of the cooperative societies for the reconstruction, respectively named François 1er and Agir: voluntary war victim owners create two groups, according to the zone they lived in, in order to represent all the homeless. They will discuss construction programmes with architects and Local Authorities.
  • Spring 1949: 23 blocks are being built.
  • March 1950: The first three blocks of the Perrey district are started, as well as the first block for the Agir cooperative (in the Saint-Michel/Saint-Vincent district).
  • 31st May 1950: First earth-work for the S85 block, the 17th block supervised by the François 1er cooperative.
  • 19th July 1950: End of structural work on the V6 block, extension of the first I.S.A.I.
  • 15th October 1950: The first owner of the first flat in the I.S.A.I. receives his keys.

1950 – 1952: First reconstruction work on Rue de Paris and in the Saint-François and Perrey districts

  • 22nd October 1950: Official ceremony marking the beginning of the first building sites in the Saint-François district.
  • 9th November 1950: End of structural work on the first block of Boulevard Foch (on the south-west angle of Saint-Roch Park).
  • 5th December 1950: Locals and shopkeepers want Commerce Dock filled up.
  • 1951: Start made on eight blocks on Rue de Paris.
  • 29 January 1951: Section C of the I.S.A.I. in the centre of Graville (outer district) is handed over and lodgers move in. Contrary to the first two sections, section C is not an I.S.A.I. but the first programme supervised by the Graville Reconstruction Union Association.
  • 15th March 1951:  End of structural work on the V49 block on Boulevard François 1er, the most advanced of the blocks supervised by the François 1er Cooperative.
  • 6th April 1951: Second visit of Minister Claudius-Petit, who inaugurates the Avenue Foch.
  • 16th May 1951: The Agir Cooperative hands over the keys of the first flats it supervised.
  • October 1951: There are eight blocks under construction in the Perrey district, rapidly expanding; the north part is nearing completion.
  • 21st October 1951: Laying of the first stone of Saint-Joseph Church.
  • 24th January 1952: The structural work of block S85 is completed, to the east of the future Town Hall.
  • 1st March 1952: Start on the foundations on the Saint-Joseph’s building site.
  • 23rd May 1952: Completion of the first structural work on Rue de Paris, block N11.
  • 10th June 1952: The Fish Market in Saint-François district is inaugurated.
  • 1st July 1952: The Franklin Building is inaugurated: built by the US Lines, with war damages and following pre-war plans, on the site of the Eblé Barracks.
  • 14th September 1952: Ground-breaking Ceremony on the Town Hall building site.
  • 27th October-5th November 1952: Completion of four blocks on Rue de Paris: blocks N4, N6, N12, N28 soon to receive their lodgers.
  • 23rd December 1952: A Government Decree declares the building site of the whole southern Sea Front is exempt of getting building permission.

1953-1954: Rebirth and reconstruction of the Town Hall

  • 8th January 1953: The first foundation posts are beaten into the ground.
  • 15th January 1953: Mayor Pierre Courant officially opens the building site of the building scheme at La Hêtraie: 60 standard semi-detached houses, with aid towards home ownership, will be built within two months.
  • January 1953: Choice of architects Raymond Audigier, Guy Lagneau and Jean prouvé to build the new Beaux-Arts Museum (now Muma).
  • 2nd March 1953: The Caisse d’Epargne bank moves into its new building, to the west of the Town Hall.
  • 3rd April 1053: Bléville becomes a suburb of Le Havre.
  • 18th May-20th May 1953: Completed structural work of blocks N5, N10, and N29 on Rue de Paris is inaugurated.
  • November 1953: Building starts on walls of the Southern Sea Front.
  • 21st December 1953: New double stage of the reconstruction of Le Havre. Laying of the first stone of the south part of the S51 block on rue Ancel, first collective housing building to be put on the local real-estate market (Law by Pierre Courant).  Construction of the north part of block N26, containing 40 flats, starts. It is the first Low-Rent Housing project (Habitation à Loyer Modéré) to be built in France. This social housing project of reduced standards is an operation directed by the O.P.H.L.M. Low-Rent social Housing Company of the city of Le Havre.

After 1954: Reconstruction of blocks and Public Facilities.

  • 25th February 1954: Death of Auguste Perret, soon replaced by his assistant, Jacques Poirrier.
  • March 1954: The building site of the Porte Océane is going well, apart from the Northern tower, only just started because of the marshy ground and difficulties in digging foundations.
  • 26th March 1954: Inauguration of structural work of block N43B, on the Southern Sea Front.
  • 26th June 1954: René Coty, President of the French Republic, lays the first stone of the chamber of Commerce.
  • 1st October 1954: The new Lycée de Jeunes Filles (later Collège Raoul Dufy) opens.
  • 14th October 1954: Les Galeries (large city centre department store) re-opens on Rue de Paris, on the same pre-war spot.
  • Beginning of 1955: The O.P.H.L.M. (renting out social housing) supervises six building sites (finished or on the point of being finished) in the city centre: block N26 in Notre-Dame district, blocks N16, N19, and N22 in the Perrey district and blocks V70 and V74 on Place de la Bourse (Stock Exchange Square). The François 1er temporary camp sheds still houses 1 172 people and the Montgeon site 3 416 people.
  • 22nd January 1955: A new branch of the bank Société Générale opens on Place Léon Meyer (Léon Meyer Square) and the Welfare Office (Bureau d’Aide Sociale, now Centre Communal d’Action Sociale or CCAS) opens on Place Albert René (Albert René Square).
  • October 1955: The Southern Sea Front housing scheme is on the point of completion and lodgers are already moving in.
  • 29th November 1955: Sanvic becomes a new suburb of Le Havre.
  • December 1955: Completion of block V5 marks the completion of Avenue Foch except for its western end.
  • February 1956: Completion of the northern part of the Porte-Océane.
  • 28th April 1956: Opening of the Alhambra cinema on Avenue Foch.
  • July 1956: Completion of the South part of Avenue Foch.
  • 5th July 1956: Completion of the structural work on the Town Hall.
  • 30th October 1956: Blessing of the structural work of Saint-Joseph’s Church.
  • 22nd July 1957: The Chamber of Commerce moves into the new Stock Exchange.
  • 11th October 1957: The Ecole Supérieure de Commerce opens on rue Emile Zola.
  • 14 July 1958: The Town Hall is inaugurated.

1958-1964: Completion of the reconstruction and permanent housing

  • 20th June 1959: Minister of Construction Pierre Sudreau visits Le Havre; The Mayor argues the case of the last remaining temporary housing schemes (Montgeon Forest, François 1er, Georges V Quay, Massillon Square, Deschaseaux Stadium).
  • May 1960: Demolition of the ruins of the Marie-Christine Casino, where the apartment block Le Ponant will eventually be built.
  • 6th may 1960: The Covered Market Les Halles Centrales is inaugurated.
  • 13th October 1960: French Minister of Education Louis Joxe inaugurates the Collège Moderne de Garçons (to become later the Lycée Porte-Océane).
  • May 1961: The old pre-war blocks, which marred the perspective from the Porte Océane onto the sea, are destroyed.
  • 24th June 1961: French Minister of Culture André Malraux inaugurates the new Museum cum Maison de la Culture (later the Musée d’Art Contemporain André Malraux, now Muma).
  • 4th July 1962: Completion of block N5 marks the end of the reconstruction of the Rue de Paris.
  • Beginning of 1963: The last sheds of the Perrey district make way to blocks V68 and V69, thus completing reconstruction of the Boulevard François 1er.
  • 1st May 1964: Saint-Joseph’s church is consecrated.
  • June 1964: The last lodgers of the Montgeon Forest sheds leave, the development of the forest as a park is announced.
  • 3rd October 1964: Saint-Michel’s Church, started building in 1957, opens.

1965-1982: last building sites

  • October 1965: The Augustin-Normand Shipyards move to the periphery, following a wish expressed as early as 1945 by the City Council.
  • 31st Ministry ofDecember 1965: The François 1er cooperative is disbanded.
  • 21st April 1967: Building of the first section of the Résidence de France starts on the site the Augustin-Normand Shipyards liberated.
  • 21st October 1967: The Municipal Library is inaugurated.
  • 29th November 1967: The Town Hall Theatre is inaugurated.
  • 20th May 1969: Opening of the foot-bridge over Commerce Dock (architect Guillaume Gillet).
  • 16th February 1973: The renovated Museum of National History is inaugurated.
  • 26th January 1974: The Agir cooperative is disbanded.
  • 8th December 1974: Consecration of Notre-Dame as a cathedral, at the end of its renovation.
  • 15th September 1978: Thirty-four years following the destruction of the Theatre, building starts on the new Maison de la Culture, designed by Oscar Niemeyer (later the Volcano, le Volcan).
  • 16th December 1978: Completion of the Ministry of Equipment Facilities on Boulevard de Strasbourg.
  • 18th November 1982: French Minister of culture Jack Lang officially inaugurates the Maison de la Culture (later Le Volcan, now Espace Niemeyer).