Monaco developed in the first decades of the 20th century as a modern country, which was mainly at the service of tourism and entertainment. People came to the Principality to enjoy themselves. The SBM organised more and more striking activities outside the Casino and the Opera, such as sports competitions. Races for sailing yachts and rowing boats were held on the sea in front of the harbour and before the turn of the century the first tennis tournament took place in Monte-Carlo. Behind the Casino and the railway station, a special place was created for pigeon shooting, where other events and competitions were also held. And when more and more cars came into the streets, SBM organised a race for cars between Marseille and Monte-Carlo.
Prince Albert gave the starting signal for the first Monte-Carlo Rally in 1911. For this occasion, he had a promenade built in the harbour, which made the beach disappear. To compensate, the Prince had a swimming pool built. Also, the first competitions with aircraft were held in the airspace over Monaco. Roland Garros was one of the prize winners. There were also competitions for seaplanes. All these events gave Monte-Carlo a different appearance and attracted a lot of audience and attention.
Albert also took the initiative for the foundation of a large research agency for the state of the world’s oceans, the Oceanographic Institute, and had the special building built on the rock that today serves as the Oceanographic Museum. At the age of 72, the Prince travelled by boat to America to receive the highest scientific award in recognition of his work and was officially received by President Harding at the White House.
While Albert distinguished himself in science, Camille Blanc, the eldest son of François Blanc, ensured that Monte-Carlo continued to develop according to the wishes of the SBM. He ensured that Monaco had its own gas factory and a waste incinerator. The SBM guaranteed every resident of Monaco three hundred litres of tap water free of charge.
Monaco had grown in a few decades from a community of more than nine thousand inhabitants in 1883 to twenty-four thousand souls, of which only sixteen hundred were Monegasques. This had everything to do with the urbanisation of the Condamine and Monte-Carlo. Yet this rapid development was also a threat to the local population. Not only many rich and cosmopolitan foreigners came to live in the country, but also many employees of the SBM and workers – construction workers and craftsmen – who were needed to construct most of the buildings and roads. A proletariat also emerged, which did not fit the idea of a luxury resort. This created two different worlds close to each other.
The Riviera Palace
Because there was almost no space within the limits of Monaco itself, the second group lived mainly on the other side of the border, in France. This group consisted mainly of Italians, most of whom had been recruited at the end of the nineteenth century in Piedmont and the interior of Liguria, where there was poverty and famine and even an outbreak of cholera. Many people from this region fled to South America, but also some came to Monaco for permanent work and an assured income. Frenchmen from the neighbouring Departements also settled here for work. A community quickly emerged, with more and more people wanting to settle in a neighbourhood just across the border: Le Carnier.
It became a hodgepodge of Italians and French, who lived in shabby huts and slums. This district quickly expanded into a real community and consisted of narrow streets, so that the requirements of hygiene could never be met. There was much illegality, a lot of alcoholism and prostitution on public roads. The situation became increasingly unhealthy and the creation of this ‘bidonville’ was very undesirable for Monaco. The houses were a bit reminiscent of the houses that the settlers found in Indochina. That is why there was talk of ‘le quartier de Tonkin‘ but in official language the district was given the names Basse-Turbie and Monte-Carlo Supérieur. Officially the district fell under the municipality of La Turbie but it was clear to everyone that it was completely focused on Monte-Carlo. La Turbie was only too happy to get rid of these ‘quartiers inférieurs‘ because they could form an unwanted majority in municipal elections.
Therefore, immediately after the turn of the century, it was decided that this village should become independent. In 1904 it became its own municipality under the name Beausoleil. This was done on the initiative of Camille Blanc, the director of SBM, who of course wanted to prevent the perfect image of Monte-Carlo from being tarnished by this district on the other side of the border. He made a deal with French President Emile Loubet to manage urbanisation. Blanc was immediately appointed the first mayor of Beausoleil.
The view from Beausoleil today
The community had six thousand inhabitants at the first official census. An average of four hundred inhabitants were added each year. Therefore, it was quickly decided to stop building housing. Little by little, the slum was demolished and replaced by houses made of stone. From 1908, Beausoleil even got a modern town hall, its own Municipal Casino, its own market hall, the Palais du Soleil and its own church (St. Joseph’s). But it would not be until after the First World War that there was general electricity and running water in Beausoleil.
At about the same time as the foundation of the municipality of Beausoleil, a monumental luxury hotel was built above the built-up area: Riviera Palace, overlooking the Casino and the sea. A tram was even built between the Casino of Monaco and this hotel, so that there was a fast connection. There was also a steam tram from Monte Carlo to La Turbie.
A few years later, another neighbouring community of Monaco also became an independent municipality: Cap d’Ail. But this community was more characterised by the villas of foreigners, who wanted to keep a little distance from the hustle and bustle of Monte Carlo.
MAIN IMAGE: Beausoleil after the turn of the century. The Riviera Palace can be seen in the background