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Eugene Cornuché

© 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 est désormais reconnu et gagne le surnom de  «Napoléon des restaurateurs».

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, contrarié, et privé du soutien du maire,  décide alors de prendre du recul avec Trouville et, devenu expert dans l’art de franchir la porte d’à côté, regarde avec imagination et sa vision d’entrepreneur, l’autre rive de la Touques. Il est convaincu que le moment est venu de sortir Deauville de sa torpeur.
Il prend attache avec Désiré Le Hoc, le maire de Deauville. Il lui propose de relancer Deauville en construisant un nouveau Casino. Les choses vont vite, puisque le 17 novembre 1910, le Conseil municipal de Deauville confie à Eugène Cornuché le soin de construire et d’exploiter le  nouveau Casino de Deauville.
Conforté par le soutien financier d’Edmond Blanc, riche propriétaire de Deauville, la S.A.C.D. (Société Anonyme des Casinos de Deauville) est alors constituée  devant notaire.
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.
Le succès de fréquentation est tel que l’année de son ouverture la capacité du Normandy est insuffisante pour répondre à la demande de réservations. Eugène Cornuché décide alors, dans la foulée de l’été 1912 de construire un deuxième grand Hôtel. Ce sera l’Hôtel Royal, construit en 10 mois et  inauguré le 28 juillet 1913.
En 2 ans, Deauville est  redevenue une station balnéaire de tout premier plan. Eugène Cornuché est l’artisan de son renouveau et Sem, son ami, dessinateur et caricaturiste, l’immortalise en 1912, en magicien, qui d’un coup de  baguette magique a réveillé et recrée un Deauville attractif où le tout Paris se retrouve désormais chaque été.
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.
Les saisons d’été concoctées par Eugène Cornuché se succèdent avec une ambition artistique extraordinaire. En 1923, Eugène Cornuché qui ose tout,  affrète le Train Bleu, détourné de sa desserte Paris > Lyon> Méditerranée, pour desservir 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.

Le buste fut  inauguré le 29 mai 1927 dans les jardins du casino. L’ensemble fut déplacé sur le Boulevard Cornuché en 1990 lors de la mise en chantier du C.I.D.

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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