This district dates from the beginning of the 19th century, a period of great economic expansion for Marseille and of major urban development. The Old-Port had reached saturation point, due in particular to the arrival of steamships. So in 1842, a project to extend the port to the Joliette area was adopted. Work on the port ended in 1853.
A brand new port facility was built at the meeting of land and sea routes, and the "Compagnie des Docks et Entrepôts" was founded. Building of the docks, which are more than 400 metres long, was directed by Gustave Desplaces from 1858 to 1863. The docks include four groups of warehouse buildings that are connected to each other and end with the company's magnificent administration building (built in a neo- Louis XIII style). Each warehouse has six levels of storage space and is built around a central courtyard. They can be compared to London's docks, which no doubt were a source of inspiration for Desplaces. They are the most modern of Marseille' Second Empire development projects and the most expensive after the Cathedral and the Prefecture.
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.