La Belle époque

Belle epoque

The first French and foreign aristocrats came to settle in Le Cannet around forty years after the discovery of Cannes, in 1834, by Lord Brouhgam. Drawn by the climate of the Midi, aristocrats from foreign lands moved into the town as from 1876, the English colony far outnumbering the others. The town then rapidly acquired a reputation as a winter resort. This foreign aristocratic mingled with the grande bourgeoisie come from large industrial towns, some of whom invested in building rental housing.

La Belle Epoque saw the peak of aristocratic tourism and vacations, and many architects set up in the town: Stoecklin, Warnery, Raisin... Families staying over for the winter bought large estates, often with a view of the sea and the Massif de Estérel, which they had converted into parkland. The most sought after sites were located in the Colle, Terrefial, Camp long neighbourhoods and in the Grande-Bretagne area. A few villas were built in the Prés neighbourhood, known today as Le Tivoli. It was once considered the most attractive part of Le Cannet, with the most beautiful orange trees of the region. Most façades were covered with coloured plasters and embellished with a decorative frieze.

This Belle Epoque architecture, using Roman tiles and local stones, coexisted with classical architecture and its residences with their sober and elegant façades.
Inside, the estate usually included several outbuildings: conciergerie, pavilions, garages. These high-standing dwellings possessed luxurious interior fittings and many conveniences. The number and dimensions of the reception rooms speak of an vibrant high-society life. Towards the end of the 19th century, the wealthy landowners were employing an extensive and highly hierarchical domestic staff: housekeeper, butler, chamber maid. Foreigners coming over for the winter brought their staff with them. Usually only the chauffeur was French.

Local newspapers regularly established a list of the villas and it was usual to christen the buildings once the construction work was finished. The names of Mediterranean vegetation were popular: les Oliviers, les Pins... During the last century, numbering the houses was not a current practice. The estates were thus identified by their name plates. In the beginning of the 20th century, Honoré Cros and the Rochevillois Georges d'Hallu created a great many of these name plates, small masterpieces decorated with flowers and animals.


Widespread recognition

The town also welcomed famous artists and painters from a very early date. It owes its fame to two very prominent figures of the end of the 19th century who made it widely known: Victorien Sardou and Rachel. The first was of course a child of Le Cannet, being a direct descendant of its founding families. The playwright and writer owned a family house in rue de la Calade which today bears his name. Idolized and widely known due to her immense talent as a tragedian, Rachel greatly contributed to spreading the fame of Le Cannet. Stephen Liegeard thus exclaimed: "To have both Rachel's tomb and Sardou's cradle! [...] Those are two gems that are worth any diadem! "

Other gems were to follow, and what gems! Bonnard, Renoir, Lebasque. They already enjoyed a certain notoriety when they came to settle in the town and belonged to the same cultural and artistic community. Able to meet in Paris or at shows, some chose to continue to do so in Le Cannet. Such was the case of Bonnard and Lebasque, but also of Ferdinand Bac and Georgette Leblanc, who had friends in common. Georges Ricard-Cordingley, a seascape painter, was also a denizen of Le Cannet and lived in the Eden-Parc up to his death in Cannes in 1939.