The palais Longchamp
The boulevard Longchamp with its plane trees was created by an owners association. They let the city open the boulevard in the 1830s and then built apartment buildings for rent and private mansions.
This was an immediate success, and soon a quarter with a very homogenic architectural style developed. Here can be found the typical " three-window " building, a design often repeated in several quarters of Marseille
Usually, the front is 7 metres wide and the depth of the building is 14 metres. According to the means and the wishes of the client, the buildings are more or less decorated ; especially around the entrance doors and the window frames. Sometimes, the three-window module was doubled and some buildings can have six windows, but these were built later. Apart from the three-window type, you can see private mansions built for only one family with very fine decoration. Most of these buildings have a garden, and those with even numbers open towards the south. This shows that the quality of living was already one of the preoccupations of 19th century architects.
The Palais Longchamp
The city had a shortage of water and since the 16th century, there had been a plan to dig a canal to supply Marseille with water from the river Durance. The water problem became an obsession for the municipality in the 19th centuury, aggravated by a cholera epidemic in 1835. From 1838 onwards, projects for the digging of this canal were designed ; finally the plan of the public works engineer Franz Mayor de Montrichier was adopted. To dig this canal of 85 kilometres, underground ducts and 18 aqueduct bridges had to be made. This took 10 years, helped by the tenacity of certain councillors like Mayor Consolat. Right from the beginning of the works in 1839, a monumental reservoir to celebrate this so precious water was planned. After several projects, the design of the architect of Notre-Dame de la Garde, Henry Espérandieu, was chosen to build the most remarkable of all edifices constructed during the Second Empire.
This historic building, inaugurated in 1869, commemorates the arrival of the water of the canal between the river Durance and Marseille. On the same site, it brought together the Museum of Fine Arts, which before was in the former Bernadines chapel, the Museum Natural History, a botanic park and a zoo. The rich decoration of the building evokes the abundance and fertility brought by the water of the canal. Here sculpture has a dominating role, and this work was entrusted to the greatest artists of that period. The famous animal sculptor Antoine Louis Barye created the lions and the tigers of the entrance, and the monumental fountain in the centre of the row of columns is the work of Jules Cavelier. It represents the river Durance surrounded by figures symbolizing the vines and wheat on a cart pulled by the bulls of Camargue.
The interior decoration of the museums is also remarkable. The main stairs of the Fine Arts Museum are adorned by two large painting by Puvis de Cavannes, commissioned in 1867: Marseille, the Greek colony and Marseille, Gateway to the Orient. In the Provence room, painted by Raphaël Ponson, the museum has preserved a fine example of historical museography. The Fine arts Museum, installed in the left wing of the building. In the right wing of the building the Museum of Natural History has been instaled since 1869.
The observatory, the oldest scientific establishement of Marseille, will soon celebrate its 300th birthday. Before the transformation of the Longchamp plateau, it was installed in the Accoules quarter, in the old part of Marseille in the Collège de Sainte-Croix, where it was created in 1702 by the Jesuits by royal order.
The observatory is attached to the Ministry of National Education and the CNRS research organization. Today it is a processing centre for data obtained from the largest telescopes of the world and from sclale space experiments, and also a laboratory for the development of instruments. The main research themes are at present aimed at the study of galaxies and interstellar environment. Since January 2000, the observatory has expanded by becoming, together with the Laboratoire d'Astronomie Spatiale at Trois Lucs in Marseille and the Observatoire de Haute Provence, the Observatoire Astronomique Marseille Provence attached to the University of Provence.
Apart from its research activity, the observatory is open to the general public and school groups and regularly proposes educational activities on astronomy. The association Andromède organizes exhibitions, school visits, group visits (children and adults), lectures, sky observations and planetarium shows. Furthermore, the observatory has a very fine room of old instruments which the Patrimoine group presents to the general public and school groups.