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Eugene Cornuché

© Deauville Mediatheque Fund
© Deauville Mediatheque Fund
Louis romanet collection - Deauville media library fund

Founder of Deauville

Like the Duke of Morny, Eugène Cornuché is one of the founders of Deauville and gave birth 50 years after him to today's Deauville.
When Eugène Cornuché was born in Paris, in April 1867 his father was a wine merchant and ran a cafe. Young Eugène is in turn a diver or waiter. As a teenager, he started catering. His destiny knew an essential stage when after having been a waiter at Chez Durand, Place de la Madeleine, he became one of the waiters at Weber, rue Royale. These are the two fashionable restaurants until the day when everything changes. It is said that, in 1893, Irma de Montigny, famous, flirtatious at the time, upset to discover her usual Weber table occupied by strangers, left the establishment with a crash and settled with her friends a few meters further in a coachman's bistro named: Maxime and Georges.
The boss is called Maxime Gaillard, he is a former Weber waiter. Everyone recognizes each other, congratulates themselves and in a few weeks the coachman's bistro becomes the new trendy café.
A year later, in 1894 called to strengthen the new team, Eugène Cornuché, in turn crossed the next door and joined this burgeoning cafe. Maxime Gaillard died a few months later and Eugène Cornuché joined forces with Chauveau, another waiter, to take over the management of the establishment which they renamed to English, Maxim's, to make it more chic.
It is 1895, Eugène Cornuché is 28 years old and he is already at the head of one of the most beautiful businesses in the capital. Already visionary, he anticipated the Universal Expo of 1900 and changed the decor of Maxim's to make it an Art Nouveau brewery. This is the year when all the metro outlets emerge with porches designed by Hector Guimard. He thus made Maxim's one of the most prominent places of the Universal Expo of 1900.
Eugène Cornuché is now recognized and earns the nickname "Napoleon of the restorers".

Attentive to the development of seaside resorts and wishing to support his clientele in their summer migrations, Eugène Cornuché became interested in Trouville.
In 1909 - he was 42 years old - he took over the Casino-Salon and Eden de Trouville for rental (it looks like in concession today). At that time, Deauville, very marked by its foundation in 1860, by the imperial family, is partly abandoned since the fall of the Empire, and its casino was closed, then destroyed in 1895.
One year later, in 1910, when his contract was renewed, municipal elections were being prepared in Trouville. Two projects are in the running for the renovation of the municipal casino. The outgoing mayor, Lettelier and Eugène Cornuché plead for an extension of the existing one. While the opposition, led by Pelletier, prefers the idea of ​​demolishing the existing one and building a new municipal casino.
Letellier lost the elections, the opposition led by Pelletier was elected and therefore decided, against Cornuché's advice, the demolition and reconstruction of a new casino.
Eugène Cornuché, upset, and deprived of the mayor's support, then decides to step back with Trouville and, having become an expert in the art of crossing the next door, looks with imagination and his entrepreneurial vision, the other bank of the Touques. He is convinced that the time has come to get Deauville out of his torpor.
He got in touch with Désiré Le Hoc, the mayor of Deauville. He offered to revive Deauville by building a new Casino. Things went quickly, since on November 17, 1910, the Deauville City Council entrusted Eugène Cornuché with the task of building and operating the new Deauville Casino.
Reinforced by the financial support of Edmond Blanc, wealthy owner of Deauville, the SACD (Société Anonyme des Casinos de Deauville) was then formed before a notary.
The works are launched. They will last 18 months. And, on July 12, 1912, the new casino in Deauville and the Hotel Normandy were inaugurated, while Le Printemps opened in the immediate vicinity, the first branch of its department stores in Paris.
Eugéne Cornuché has thought big. The casino designed by Georges Wybo, is inspired by the Petit Trianon of Versailles. It is designed with spaces devoted to shows, concerts and games. The surface area allocated to the four concert and performance halls is even greater than the surface area devoted to table games.
The programming is also of great ambition. Eugène Cornuché manages to welcome the most famous company of Ballets of the time: Les Ballets Russes by Serge de Diaghilev, and their star dancer: Nijinski. For the first time the company discovered in Paris in 1909 will perform in a city in France. Deauville thus becomes the second city in France to welcome this company which only performed with Nijinski in Paris, Deauville and Lyon.
The Normandy Hotel and its 400 rooms have all the comforts of the time. The architectural ensemble was imagined by Théo Petit. It quickly became a manifesto and a benchmark building in the Anglo-Norman style.
Sacha Guitry, Tristan Bernard, Maurice Chevalier and Mistinguett, the young Jean Cocteau, Albert Brasseur, the singer Polaire… distinguished hosts of Eugène Cornuché all came, transported with many journalists and influential columnists by the special train chartered for the 'opportunity.
The success of attendance is such that the year of its opening the capacity of the Normandy is insufficient to meet the demand for reservations. Eugène Cornuché then decided, in the wake of the summer of 1912, to build a second large hotel. It will be the Royal Hotel, built in 10 months and inaugurated on July 28, 1913.
In 2 years, Deauville has once again become a top seaside resort. Eugène Cornuché is the architect of his revival and Sem, his friend, designer and caricaturist, immortalizes him in 1912, as a magician, who woke up with a magic wand and recreated an attractive Deauville where all of Paris is now found each summer.
On August 1, 1914, the war brought this success story to a halt. The Casino and the Hôtel Royal were transformed in mid-August 1914 into military hospitals.
At the end of this tragedy which marks a historic break, The Roaring Twenties which begin in 1919, will propel Deauville into its first golden age.
The summer seasons concocted by Eugène Cornuché follow one another with an extraordinary artistic ambition. In 1923, Eugène Cornuché, who dared to do everything, chartered the Blue Train, diverted from its Paris> Lyon> Mediterranean service, to serve Deauville.
Three years later, when he died in Paris on April 1, 1926, he was only 59 years old. He is buried in the Montmartre cemetery and his coffin is accompanied by many artists.
In Deauville the emotion is great. Less than 3 weeks after his disappearance, the municipality decided by deliberation on April 20, 1926 to raise him a bust made by the sculptor La Monaca for an amount of 140 Frs. This same sculptor had already produced in 000 the bust of Désiré Le Hoc.
The elected officials of Deauville also decide to give its name to the road which passes in front of the casino, the current Boulevard Cornuché.
On the pedestal of the statue, located in the center of the gardens facing the casino, we engrave the text that you can still read today:
To Eugène Cornuché,
The Fleurie Beach.

The bust was inaugurated on May 29, 1927 in the gardens of the casino. The whole was moved to Boulevard Cornuché in 1990 when the CID was started.

He recalls how the civilization of leisure, which flourished in the second half of the twentieth century, owes to the visionary spirit and the audacity of Eugène Cornuché. This audacity and ambition of Eugène Cornuché for Deauville still remain today an example and a source of inspiration for future projects…

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