This area dates back to the start of the 19th century, an important time for Marseille in terms of its significant economic growth and the appearance of major urban structures. The waters at the Old Port were at saturation point due to the arrival of steamboats. In 1842, a port extension project to La Joliette was approved and work was completed in 1853.
Where the roads and sea paths meet, a new port facility appeared with, among others, the foundation of the Compagnie des Docks et Entrepôts. The docks were built between 1858 and 1863 by Gustave Desplaces measuring over 400 metres with four interlinked warehouse buildings and a fantastic administration centre (brick and stone Louis XIII style). Each warehouse was based around a central courtyard with six floors of retail space, similar to those in London which Desplaces was probably inspired by. They are the most modern and expensive Marseille design of the Second Empire after the Nouvelle Major and Préfecture.
After a period of almost total neglect, the Docks have been restored to their former splendour thanks to the remarkable rehabilitation project undertaken by architect Eric Castaldi.
The Docks, part of the Euroméditerranée programme are currently under renovation and will reopen in 2015.