Old postcards have often proved to be the starting point for Invisible Bordeaux investigations. But recent acquisitions have also added a...

Old postcards shining new light on past Invisible Bordeaux subjects

Old postcards have often proved to be the starting point for Invisible Bordeaux investigations. But recent acquisitions have also added an extra dimension to subjects which have already been covered in the past. Here are some examples!

We start our journey on Allées de Tourny, on April 25th 1905, at the official unveiling of a grand monument celebrating the achievements of 19th-century statesman Léon Gambetta. Leading the tributes that day was French president Émile Loubet, although this picture shows the undoubtedly stirring rendition of La Marseillaise by renowned baritone Francisque Delmas.

It is unclear whether Delmas was supported by any instrumental accompaniment (the musicians don’t seem to be too busy), although the gentleman to his left does appear to be playing the role of the conductor. Whatever, the Gambetta monument, Loubet and Delmas certainly drew a crowd, with people viewing from balconies and even perched up on the roofs of nearby buildings.

One thing that nobody could have foreseen on that day was that within 60 years, the monument would be removed and the esplanade completely overhauled in order to build an underground car park. Decorative fountains at either end also disappeared, eventually reappearing in Soulac-sur-Mer and Québec respectively. By the mid-1960s, this is how things looked:

This 1920s postcard shows the view from the intersection between rues Sainte-Catherine and Porte-Dijeaux. In the foreground is the façade of the Dames de France department store, which became Galeries Lafayette in the 1980s. The building on the left will now be familiar to many as one of the city’s many McDonald’s fast food outlets.

Funnily enough, the following postcard was produced exclusively for the Dames de France store and shows the right-bank Gare d'Orléans railway station as it looked in the very early years of the 20th century, possibly even the late 19th century. The only means of transport in sight is a horse-drawn carriage (the picture even seems to pre-date the arrival of the city's first-generation trams). The station itself was operational from 1852 until 1955, and today its walls house a multiplex cinema.

This 1906 postcard is captioned "La Caisse d'Épargne et le Monument Gloria Victis". The bank's teams have since moved on to the Mériadeck quarter… and are soon set to relocate again to new quarters on the Garonne waterfront. Meanwhile, the building is now home to the Centre Jean Moulin, a compact museum devoted to the Second World War. The "Gloria Victis" statue, which commemorates victims of the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, is still very much in the same place, which it has occupied since 1886.

On to Martignas-sur-Jalle, some 20 kilometres to the west of Bordeaux, and to Camp de Souge, a military base which covers 7,000 acres of land. This first postcard shows the entrance, complete with tricolour shields and a magnificent cockerel, as it looked around 1915. When Invisible Bordeaux visited the site, the focus was more on Souge's difficult WW2 chapter, as the camp formed the backdrop to the execution by German forces of more than 300 members of the French Resistance, often subsequent to their arrest by members of the Vichy régime’s police force

This second shot from Souge, dated 1917, shows an unusual open-air chapel in amongst the pines, complete with rudimentary wooden pews and a precarious-looking steeple topped off by a cross.

We finish up with this late-1960s aerial view of a then recently-completed Pont d'Aquitaine (it opened in 1967). The area in the foreground has undergone immense development over the ensuing years, while the right-bank town of Lormont has expanded upwards and outwards. The massive stone quarry over to the right is now a mass of lush greenery.

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