Gérardmer and Xonrupt through the ages
Pictures of the Valley of the Lakes
Gérardmer and Xonrupt through the ages
Popular tradition attributes the founding of Gérardmer to Gérard de Châtenois, or Gérard d'Alsace, Duke of Lorraine from 1048 to 1070. He is said to have erected a tower on the banks of the Jamagne river (for hunting or defense purposes) around 1056, from whence comes the name of Gérardmer (from "meix" "field" in medieval dialect and Gérard - Gérard's garden.
Gérardmer Lake by Justin Ouvrié around 1836.
Gérardmer from a daguerreotype by Jean-Baptiste Saulcy in 1852.
The development of Gérardmer
When Gérardmer became a parish in 1540, the village numbered 23 households, around 150 people. At that time, the village was centred around the present district of the church and was composed of several hamlets situated on the surrounding hills which still form today one of the characteristics of the High Vosges town.
Albert Ferry Square around 1890. In the foreground, the fountain-drinking trough created in 1841. This square was the home of Gérardmer market for a long time.
From Albert Ferry Square,we reach the districts of the town hall and church. At the beginning of the 20th century,this part of the street (the present Charles de Gaulle street) was lively and full of shops.
The forecourt of the the church between the two world wars. This part of Gérardmer, the oldest, was not involved in the new town planning of 1832 and preserved scattered houses with their land.
Rue de la Gare (the present François Mitterrand street) connected the station to Alber Ferry Square and the town centre. From 1878 and the arrival of the first trains, this street played an important role, housing numerous shops and services.
Visitors arriving by train became more and more numerous : 5,000 in 1884, 40,000 in 1904. The number of travellers was such that around 15 people worked for the Eastern Rail Company at Gérardmer station. From 1910 with the new fashion of winter sports, the station became a very lively place.
And Xonrupt-Longemer becomes a commune
On 22nd October 1919, the commune of Xonrupt-Longemer was created. At the time, the population was 809 in habitants.
Nowadays, Xonrupt-Longemer numbers 1,500 inhabitants. Mostly farming before 1950, the commune has since become very involved in tourism, opening up to visitors an exceptional natural patrimony at the very foot of the Vosges mountains.
The road leading from Xonrupt to the Schluchtwas opened in 1860. It was thanks to Charles- Henry Hogard, a native of Epinal, who owned a villa on the edge of Gérardmer lake. The road was built following the plans of the Hartmann brothers, encouraged by Napoleon III, as the empress was to stay in the very fashionable Altenberg spa hotel, situated on the Alsace slope.
A long history of tourism
Gérardmer enjoyed a tourist craze very early on. As early as the 17th century, the dukes of Lorraine and the canonesses from Remiremont came for a rest.
However it was in the 19th century that the banks of the lake began to house mansions and villas belonging to wealthy businessmen and important people from Belgium, Paris and Nancy.
The first Tourist Office in France was in fact "invented" by the people of Gérardmer in 1875. It was called "The Walks Committee" at the time.
In 1925, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Walks Committee (which became the " Syndicat d'Initiative " in 1919) a reception building was constructed opposite the station. It was pulled down in 1962.
The old staging post which became the Post Hotel, then the Grand Hotel, launched the development of luxurious hotel accommodation in Gérardmer in 1860. It welcomed prestigious guests, a list of which was published in "Gérardmer-Saison", a small news sheet edited by the Walks Committee.
The promenade along the lake was created in 1862. On fine days, crowds came to enjoy the lakeside walk. Beautiful ladies, gentlemen and military officers mingled near the landing stages.
During the " Belle Epoque ", elegant rowing boats and canoes were rented out to strollers wanting a trip on the lake.
The " Union Nautique ", created in 1885, had the monopoly of lake bathing for a long time. It was composed of a boathouse, changing rooms for paying customers and a landing stage.
At the beginning of the 20th century, apart from the train, there were also2 tramways. The first was inaugurated in July1897 and led from Gérardmer to Retournemer. IN 1904, the line was extended to the Schlucht and the Hohneck. This trip was very popular with tourists. Thus it was that from June to September 1908, 124,490 people travelled on the tramway! A second was put into service in 1899, connecting Remiremont to Gérardmer.
The terminal of the tram at the Hohneck
The Schlucht pass, border between France and Germany before 1918, was a popular site for tourists staying in the lake Valley
To know more about the history of Gérardmer
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