Visiting Tourcoing, France: At Avenue Gustave-Dron, Remembering a Long-Serving Mayor at a Grand Approach to the Station
Historical footfalls and fixtures at a major French city
In large French cities there have not unusually been larger-than-life personalities who have simultaneously fulfilled multiple public roles.
In the city of Tourcoing in France's Nord department, one such figure was its long-serving mayor, Gustave Dron (1856-1930).
A medical doctor by profession, he served as Mayor of Tourcoing from 1899 until 1919 (deported to Lithuania by the Imperial German invaders during World War One)(1) and again from 1925 until 1930. He also served in the French Senate from the Nord department from 1914 until 1930, having also been a long-serving deputy in the French National Assembly (French: Assemblée nationale) for a Lille consituency (2), having first been elected in 1889, when the 3rd constitution of the French Republic (French: République française) was less than 15 years old.
The circumstances of Gustave Dron's first election to the National Assembly in 1889 were interesting: his predecessor as deputy for Lille's 6th constituency was a monarchist seeking the replacement of the Republic by a reversion to a royal dynasty. Gustave Dron was affiliated with Radicals, who — initially viewed as being progressives in opposition to vested interests — eventually, as Francis de Tarr has eloquently described (3), came to be seen as most typically representing the Republic itself.
Gustave Dron was also a long-serving Nord department councillor.
During Gustave Dron's long mayoralty he was noted for promoting the building of a local hospital, the pasteurization of milk, and for the sponsoring of a chamber of commerce with a conspicuous belfry. In an era when tuberculosis and respiratory diseases were common, he worked to ensure that city children had opportunities for healthy, fresh air vacations. In strongly industrialized Tourcoing, he, together with President of France Armand Fallières (1841-1931), presided over the International Textile Exhibition (French: Exposition Internationale Textile), in 1906; on that occasion, he led the civic welcome for the President of the Republic on the latter's arrival at Tourcoing's railroad station.
A local avenue which leads to Tourcoing's station (see photo, above)(4) was, after his death, named for him, as was the city hospital which he as mayor and as a medical doctor he had been instrumental in founding. Avenue Gustave Dron is noted for Art Deco styling which is conspicuous at a local building complex dating from the 1930s. A statue honouring Gustave Dron was also unveiled.
April 27, 2020
(1) On Gustave Dron's return to Tourcoing from enforced exile, he was accompanied by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929). One can well imagine the atmosphere of triumphalism which would have characterized such an occasion following years of occupation and great hardship; the fact that the triumphalism on the part of the victorious Allies at the Versailles Peace Treaty also included highly punitive measures likely to lead to another war with Germany was something noticed — and vainly warned against — by observers such as John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946).
(2) Tourcoing is part of the Lille urban agglomeration.
(3) See: Francis de Tarr, The French Radical Party From Herriot to Mendès-France, New York: Oxford University Press, 1961.
(4) Dating from 1905, it was designed by Sidney Dunnett.
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Tourcoing itself, other noted buildings include: the city hall; Saint-Christophe church; the belfry; Art Déco architecture at avenue Gustave Dron .
Roubaix (distance: 4.6 kilometres) has a remarkable city hall.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Tourcoing (distance: 172 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB / NMBS and the French railroad company SNCF maintain a service between Brussels and Tourcoing. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel gent. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada
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