Walking along the Cours Lieutaud one could easily overlook this beautiful Art Nouveau building as at street level it is mostly hidden behind rows of bikes and huge advertising signs. You need to cross the street before you can actually see this huge building in it’s full glory.
Once you have crossed that street, you will find that 26 Cours Lieutaud is one of the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in Marseille. The building doesn’t have a name; chiseled into the left side of the facade it only says “Ch. Heraud Architecte 1905”. In a monograph published at the beginning of the 20th century it is called “Maison à Loyer”, which means so much as “House for rent”.
That same monograph tells us the architect was “challenged to dedicate the lower three floors of the building to a car parking without harming the rental value of the apartments above, which he skilfully managed to accomplish. The three floors of the garage (basement, ground floor and mezzanine) were connected by lifts and hoists. The other floors each contained a beautiful apartment serviced by a special lift. The facade was richly decorated in a style inclined to Art Nouveau.”
I found it very interesting to see thistles on the facade of 26 Cours Lieutaud, as the thistle represents Nancy. Nancy, to many, is considered to be the birthplace of Art Nouveau.
The Cité de l’Architecture & du Patrimoine (Architecture and Heritage website) further informs us the house was built as an investment property for Mrs. Paul-Gassier. The architect was Charles Héraud (1859 – 1941), Fernand Allar was involved in the project as the official agent for Bétons Armés Hennebique (BAH), and E. Fournier was the responsible BAH engineer. And that concludes the information I could find on this exceptional building.
Now, there is one thing that keeps puzzling me though… This is a huge building, it must have been a rather big commission. Yet Charles Héraud, whose name is chiseled into the stone of the facade seems fairly untraceable. I could find one website where he is mentioned for having designed 26 Cours Lieutaud in 1905 and another building, at 46 rue Jean de Bernardy, in 1902. (I will dedicate a post to that building soon.) Other than his year of birth – 1859 – we do not really get to know anything about him.
Then there’s a wikipage about Cours Lieutaud that, again, mentions nothing but the name of the architect; and I found a listing of all important architects from the Provence region which includes ‘our’ Charles Héraud as well as a Gabriel Héraud (Marseille 24 march 1866 – Narbonne 26 january 1941). This site also mentions that Charles Héraud has won a Second Grand-Prix de Rome. Checking the Prix de Rome wikipage though tells us it was in fact Gabriel Héraud who, in 1894, won the Second Grand-Prix de Rome! So what’s the story about these two architects from Marseille with the same family name? Where they related? Maybe, with or without the help from one of my readers, I’ll find out the truth one day. If you have any clues I hope you will share them with us, in the comments below.