Visiting the railroad station at Nîmes, France: with its splendid 19th century Neoclassical frontage
Stately facility dating from the July Monarchy
The main part of this striking building in Nîmes, in southern France's Gard department, dates from 1843. Gard lies in the Languedoc-Rousillon region.
The original railroad station in the city was sponsored in 1839 by a local company with strong mining interests: Compagnie des Mines de la Grand'Combe et les chemins de fer du Gard.
In 1844 the current station building was opened by the Chemin de fer de Montpellier à Nismes (1); for much of the 20th century, however, it has been the responsibility of the S.N.C.F. (2).
Significant features of this fine structure include a profusion of arches in Neoclassical style. The multidimensional arching continues internally as part of the structure of the reception area. Externally, frontage's series of open pediments, which blend stylistically with the arching below them, is actually an addition to the building made in 1947, but has evidently been carried out successfully.
Interestingly, the French minister of public works, Jean-Baptiste Teste (1780-1852) served as deputy for the Gard department when the station was being built, during the July Monarchy ministry of Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia (1769-1851), that is, in the reign of King Louis-Philippe 1 (1773-1850)(3).
In terms of the rail network, Nîmes offers an important intermediate destination on the line between Tarrascon and Sète-Ville stations. The high speed TGV (4) links Nîmes to Paris and several other cities
The station is situated at Nîmes's avenue Feuchères.
Several years ago, Nîmes station became much more well known than previously to international travellers when the city's local airport opened up to discount airline flights to northern Europe, thus exercising competition with Marseille as a gateway to the wide region.
It is interesting to reflect that France underwent several tumultuous constitutional changes in the 19th century, but its economic progress continued unabated — whether under monarchy, Empire or Republic (5) — testified not least by its rapidly growing rail network. Nîmes station is an excellent, surviving example of a graciously styled, early French rail facility.
August 14, 2015
(1) 'Nismes' relfects an archaic spelling of 'Nîmes', currently used.
(2) Société nationale des chemins de fer français.
(3) I have included a photo taken in 1842 of King Louis-Philippe I, later to be overthrown in 1848.
(4) Train à Grande Vitesse.
(5) This is a reminder of the comment by John F. Kennedy, that, while the 19th century was superficially about the conflict between monarchies and republics, its underlying tensions were about the transition from agricultural to industrial economies. (JFK. ref., in: Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days, Mayflower, 1965.)
Some sourcing: Wikipedia.
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In Nîmes itself, architectural heritage is outstanding, including the Arènes Roman amphitheatre, built in the First Century AD, the Maison Carrée, dating from 16BC, the 17th century Château Fadaise, and several ecclesiastical and public buildings; the city serves as a gateway to the picturesque and historic Cévennes area.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), where car rental is available; the S.N.C.F. rail company maintains services between Paris and Nîmes. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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