The town's history
Enghien-les-Bains came into being in 1850 by an act of law. It takes its name from the city of Enghien, near Mons, in Belgium.
In 1689, the Prince of Condé, who was feudal lord of the lands of Montmorency and also the feudal lord of Enghien-en-Hainaut, was granted permission by the King to change the name of the duchy of Montmorency to the duchy of Enghien and the new Pond of Montmorency became the Pond of Enghien. A few years after the Revolution, Montmorency recovered its original name, but the pond retained the name of Enghien and, therefore, when a hamlet was built on this site, quite naturally, it was given the name the Hamlet of Enghien
In 1766, a priest from the Oratory of Montmorency, Abbot Louis Cotte, discovered the first sulphurous spring close to the pond and the first thermal spa was built in 1820. Jean-Baptiste Peligot, the administrator of Saint-Louis Hospital, purchased the spa and redesigned the pond which became a lake. The town adopted the motto: “Dant robur virtutemque fonts” (“These springs which give strength and courage”). In 1823, the waters of Enghien-les-Bains were given to King Louis XVIII and cured him of an ulcer on the leg. News quickly spread and the reputation of the newly founded spa resort was made.
The hamlet soon became a fashionable destination where well-to-do Parisians liked to be seen and Enghien-les-Bains became a centre for medicinal treatment and entertainment. In 1846, the northern railway line reached the town and a growing number of Parisians came to visit the shores of the lake, take the waters and seek entertainment.
On 7 August 1850, the National Assembly voted the creation of a new commune which would take the name of Enghien-les-Bains. In 1863, the old spas were replaced by a new and vast treatment centre which was one of the most modern in Europe. The town’s development continued during the Second Empire and a festive atmosphere reigned all the year round (concerts, firework displays every week, boating on the lake, etc.).
Many important figures set up home in the luxury residences built on the shores of the lake: the Emperor’s cousin, Princess Mathilde (in Saint-Gratien), the publicist Emile de Girardin, the curator of the Louvre Museum Frédéric Reiset, the artist Ingres, the composer Clairville, etc. Emperor Napoleon III honoured the many magnificent lakeside parties given by his cousin with his presence.
The first games which appeared in Enghien-les-Bains around 1864, held in the Rose Garden (Jardin des Roses), were very tame (spinning tops, skittles and billiards), but, very soon, under the influence of the journalist Hippolyte de Villemessant, the founder of Le Figaro, a Ludo club was created and an initial Kursaal (casino) project was proposed but was never completed. The 1870 war made its presence felt, with the Prussians occupation of the town resulting in some serious damage. In 1875, Jeanne Bourgeois was born at Enghien-les-Bains and was to become famous on stage under the name of Mistinguett.
- The first casino was inaugurated in 1878.
- In 1901, the creation of a spectacular casino was undertaken: the prow of a huge white yacht making its way across the lake, complete with a ballroom, theatre, artificial cave, café, etc. However, the building was replaced in 1909 by the buildings which support the present-day structure. The theatre was rebuilt and included an Italian-style auditorium. In 1913, the gaming halls listed two hundred thousand entries. During the First World War, a military hospital was set up in the casino buildings which interrupted its usual activities.
- In 1919, the National Assembly voted a law prohibiting gambling within a 100 km radius of Paris and Enghien-les Bains was severely affected and business went downhill. This law was not relaxed until 1931.
- In 1935, a new spa was built to replace the former one which was now out of date and the new building survived until the start of the 21st century.
- During the Second World War, Enghien-les-Bains served as a billeting station for German regiments passing through and the town was also the seat for a regional Kommandantur. On Liberation, it was the scene of many violent confrontations between the German forces and General Leclerc’s 2nd Armoured Division, supported by the local Resistance group.
- In 1988, the Lucien Barrière Group was granted the concession for the spa and the casino. A few years later, it was given the authorisation to operate fruit machines and the income which these generated permitted the complete restructuring of the gaming rooms and the construction of a new 13,000 m² space devoted to fitness and wellbeing. The Municipality undertook the construction of an Arts Centre, a multi-purpose venue which promotes stage arts, digital arts and plastic arts.
The town developed throughout the 19th century on the basis of an unusual model which was the result of the growth of its spa activity. Two orthogonal and rectilinear transport networks provide its basic outline: the road from Argenteuil to Montmorency, the present-day Rue du Général-de-Gaulle, and the railway line belonging to the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Nord, opened in 1846.
Since 2003, the Municipality has committed itself to a process of creating an Architectural, Urban and Landscape Heritage Protection Zone in several districts which offer outstanding architectural features (Napoleon III, Haussmann, eclectic, Art Nouveau styles, etc.).
Enghien-les-Bains has preserved its typical 19th century and Belle Epoque spa resort heritage and, for visitors to the town, many public buildings and townhouses still convey its charm: Neo-gothic castles, Swiss chalets, Normandy-style thatched houses, Neoclassical villas with mansard roofs, Second Empire apartment buildings, Art Nouveau decoration, etc.