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Saint-Louis (Haut-Rhin)

 

Saint-Louis is a French commune in the tri-national agglomeration of Basel, located in the Haut-Rhin department, in the Grand Est region. This municipality is located in the historical and cultural region of Alsace and borders on the border between France and Switzerland. Its inhabitants are called Ludoviciens and Ludoviciennes. It is the third commune of the department in terms of number of inhabitants. Saint-Louis has existed since 1684, by order of King Louis XIV.

The coat of arms of the city must have been that of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of France, azure with three golden fleur-de-lis, but a defect occurred during the registration at the Court of Mulhouse, the fleurs-de-lis were white and not yellow , therefore the official coat of arms became azure with three silver lilies placed two and one.

Its rapid development is due to its geographical location. The town was founded between the Riss and the Flandrien, two Rhine plateaus, next to Huningue, which was then a village surrounded by a fortress of Vauban (now destroyed), and next to Basel, a strong city. In addition, it is the last (or first) French town on the busy road linking Strasbourg to Basel. This road still exists and is used by several departmental roads. Finally, thanks to its proximity to Switzerland and Germany, Saint-Louis attracts a lot of workers, especially cross-border workers.

The town is made up of four districts, three of which are recognized. These are Saint-Louis-center, Bourgfelden (former municipality having merged in 1953), Neuweg (former district of Blotzheim having joined Saint-Louis five years later) and Michelfelden (former locality belonging to Basel having, in 1793, joined Bourglibre, name of Saint-Louis during the French Revolution).

 

History

Saint-Louis is a "young town" of a little over 300 years old, which officially exists, by order of Louis XIV, dating from November 28, 1684. But Saint-Louis experienced human colonization very early on. Tombs, dating from 1500 BC, and a Gallic treasure, dating from 80 BC, have been discovered there. Three great Roman roads started from a place called Arialbinum, which was probably in a triangle now bounded by Bourgfelden, Binningen and Saint-Louis. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Saint-Louis would have already been a very small village called Birsen, which has disappeared today. On October 4, 1259, the Cistercian convent of Michelfelden was founded on the Roman site of Magnus Campus. It is by far the oldest built heritage in the region, but is not classified as a historical monument.

From the origins to the 18th century
From the 13th to the 17th century, only two inhabited places can be found between Basel and Kembs: Alt-Hüningen - or Altdorf, a small fishing village - and Michelfelden. The Hardt forest, populated by bears and wolves, then reaches practically as far as the Rhine. In 1680, Vauban and the engineer Jacques Tarade undertook the construction of the fortress of Huningue, by order of the Sun King. All around the stronghold, a glacis must be cleared. Also, the village of Huningue, which is located between the new fortress and Basel, is razed. The majority of its inhabitants will then rebuild a new village a kilometer and a half away. Officially, it was called Bourg Neuf d'Aoust, but very quickly it would be called Village-Neuf du Grand-Huningue, then quite simply Village-Neuf - or Neudorf.

But some settled, at the same time as a small number of workers of the fortress, on the road to Paris, where it crosses the road coming from the Porte Saint-Jean-de-Bâle, near a relay station for horses and a small chapel. The current location of this site is in front of the Saint-Louis church. Thus was born the hamlet of Saint-Louis. When in 1684, Louis XIV granted it to bear this name, a customs house and a dozen very low houses had been built along the road. Those who live there are "tobacco guards", that is to say customs officers. The excellent location of this hamlet, both crossroads and border post, is the starting point of the exponential curve of its growth. The development of Saint-Louis is initially slow, but it is constant. At the end of the Ancien Régime, in 1789, the village had nearly 600 inhabitants and 500 meters of streets. It is however only an annex of Village-Neuf, because it depends on its municipality and its parish priest. It was the removal of internal customs barriers, decreed by the Assembly on October 31, 1793, that marked the beginning of the real rise of Saint-Louis.

The French Revolution gave it the two keys to its success: on the one hand, the establishment of the national customs in 1791. Saint-Louis then became a real border post, with customs officers and soldiers. On the other hand, on October 22, 1793, the directory of the department grants Saint-Louis and Michelfelden municipal autonomy. These two villages are united under the name of Bourg-Libre.

The nineteenth century
The expansion can accelerate. From 1800 to 1815, many manufacturing workshops and transport houses, including Danzas, were established in Saint-Louis, which took over this name in 1814. In 1816, Alexandre Freund founded the Grande-Brasserie de Saint-Louis. Since 1808, Saint-Louis has organized its independent primary education and has a school. On June 27, 1827, Charles X ordered the creation of an independent parish in the town. The latter then had 1,400 inhabitants. The Saint-Louis Church was not built until 1842.

October 25, 1840 is a big date for Saint-Louis: the Mulhouse - Saint-Louis railway line is officially inaugurated. Access to Basel was completed in 1845. Saint-Louis's future was assured. Between 1845 and 1850, the letter post adopted the railroad as a new means of transport for mail. It's the end of mail trunks. On April 14, 1847, another great victory was won. Louis-Philippe I approves, by ordinance, the division of the territory between Village-Neuf, Saint-Louis and Huningue, which had already been planned in 1845. He thus puts an end to a trial started in 1808. Saint-Louis finally has a finage municipal authority and thus frees itself from its financial tutelage, the last one still exercised by Village-Neuf over it. In 1866, during a new general census, Saint-Louis was the most populous municipality in the canton with 2,546 inhabitants. Trade is very active, but agriculture still plays a big role in the economy of the town. The agricultural show, which was held on September 9, 1867 in Saint-Louis, brought together around thirty farmers.

 

It was under the German regime, from 1870 to 1914, that Saint-Louis industrialized. The establishment of large Basel ribbon factories, silk weaving, cigar factories, metal construction workshops, food and chemical factories, printing presses, cardboard factories and lithography workshops, in the town, causes an influx of workers from the countryside. The town was transformed into a town which was to acquire a telegraph, a public telephone, gas and then electric lighting, a drinking water distribution network and an electric tram which was inaugurated on March 1, 1900.

The twentieth century
Saint-Louis was living its "golden age" before the catastrophes of the two world wars. According to an urban plan, a reformed church, a synagogue, new schools, a large number of workers' housing, a slaughterhouse and a prison were built, among other things. Large hotels and department stores are opening their doors. After a four-year paralysis during the Great War, Saint-Louis became French again in November 1918. In fact, the city was completely isolated by a barbed wire and electrified network set up by the German military high command. The postwar period is a difficult time. The shortage of raw materials has caused unemployment. The industry must reconvert and turn to the French market.

From 1920 to 1938, Saint-Louis, despite the crisis which led to the closure of the main ribbon factories, tried to find a new industrial boom thanks to metallurgy. One of the concerns of Mayor Jules Wallart is the housing of workers. In 1923 work began on the garden city, which was to be called the Wallart district upon completion. Large buildings were built, including the Hôtel de la Gare and the Grand Hôtel Pfiffer, in a very modern style for the time, the Ursuline boarding school, now a music school, and the neighborhood school. The city also acquired a municipal stadium and had its war memorial built by architects Berger and Rudloff. In 1930, the municipal budget exceeded two million francs for the first time. Saint-Louis had 8,629 inhabitants in 1936. From 1939 to 1944, it was the tragic period of the Second World War. From September 1939 to September 1940, the entire population of the city was evacuated to Lectoure and its surroundings, in the Gers. On the way back, Alsace is German. Saint-Louis is under Nazi occupation. On November 20, 1944, the city was freed from the yoke of Nazi occupation. On March 1, 1953, the municipality merged with the municipality of Bourgfelden. Then it was the 1955 Tour de France which passed through Saint-Louis on the Colmar-Zurich stage. On March 6, 1958, the district of La Chaussée was detached from the town of Blotzheim to be attached to the town of Saint-Louis. In the same year, on December 31, the Basel tramway was removed to make way for the district bus.

On June 17, 1970, Saint-Louis inaugurated the Basel-Mulhouse-Friborg international airport where the President of the French Republic Georges Pompidou and the President of the Swiss Confederation Hans Peter Tschudi are present. In 1984, the city organized its first Book Fair. In 1986, the first Théatra festival of short shows. A few weeks later, the Schweizerhalle disaster will contaminate the Rhine with a reddish mixture. The incident will be called “Chernobyl” in reference to Chernobyl. In 1989, the first part of the restructuring work in the town center was completed with the inauguration of the town hall by Jean Ueberschlag, recently elected mayor. On October 23, 1993, the media library was completed and inaugurated, followed by the completion of the Lys crossroads, a modernized and pedestrianized city center. In 1999, the 504-seat theater and the three-screen cinema were completed, along with the underground car park. On July 22, 2000, the Fernet Branca distillery closed its doors.

 

21st century
On June 15, 2004, Jean Ueberschlag opened the Fernet Branca contemporary art museum in the former premises of the distillery. On October 11, 2005, at around 12:40 p.m., a major fire, visible for several tens of kilometers around, ravaged the Ciba chemical plant in Grenzach-Wyhlen in Germany. At the end of December 2006, the company GeoPower AG, located in Kleinhüningen (Basel district), caused a wave of panic. Indeed, GeoPower, specialized in geothermal energy, dynamites the ground at a depth of nearly 3,000 meters. And more precisely on December 8 when, on several occasions, the magnitude of three on the Richter scale had been reached. But it continued at the beginning of 2007. As the population was not informed of these operations, the company was ordered to compensate the affected households. Finally, on December 12, 2008, Switzerland entered the Schengen area which, however, did not reduce heavy truck traffic jams on the A35 motorway. In 2010, a fire at the Frigo-Bell warehouses in Basel lasted 2 weeks around Easter. The streets of Saint-Louis are flooded with smoke.

Following the death of Jean-Marie Zoellé on April 6, 2020, Pascale Schmidiger, number two on the latter's list in the 2020 municipal elections and deputy during the previous term, ensures de facto the function of interim mayor. On May 23, 2020, she was officially elected mayor of Saint-Louis by 33 votes out of 35, during an extraordinary municipal council relocated to the FORUM. At the same time, she becomes the first woman to take up this post.