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Houlgate (Municipality, Calvados, France)

Last modified: 2023-10-14 by olivier touzeau
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Flag of Houlgate - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 4 September 2009

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Presentation of Houlgate

The municipality of Houlgate (1,988 inhabitants in 2009; 469 ha; municipal website) is located on the Channel, between Cabourg and Villers-sur-Mer.
The name of Houlgate is of Norse origin, houl meaning "a hole" and gate, "a passage" or "a path".

Houlgate emerged as a sea resort built on the Calvados coast in the 19th century, when the fad of sea bathing reached France from England. In 1836, the municipality of Beuzeval had 301 inhabitants. The main center of the village was built on a hill set back from the beach, around the 12th century church. The small hamlet of La Mer (the Sea), separated from the main village by the river Drochon, was inhabited by a few poor fishers.
In 1845-1850, the first hotels were built in La Mer to house the first tourists. Among them, pension (boarding house) Imbert was revamped in 1877 and renamed Grand Hôtel Imbert. The hotel was added its characteristic rotunda in 1907. The seashore was basically laid out for sea bathing, and the hamlet was renamed Beuzeval-les-Bains.
On the right bank of the river Drochon, a sea resort was built from scratch by a consortium led by Albin Vergniolle, the representative Amédée Renée and the lawyer Victor Delisle. A stone wharf with a promenade was set up, along which a row of four-floor houses were built. Those houses, locally called chalets (a word normally used for the Alps houses), were built in very diverse architectural styles, as it was the case in Trouville-sur-Mer. The Grand Hôtel de la Plage was inaugurated, with 120 rooms, was inaugurated in 1854.
The resort was named Houlgate, for the name of the small hill which borders it. The town hall, the post office and the school were transfered to that part of the municipality. Beuzeval had therefore two sea resorts seprated by the Drochon: Beuzeval-les-Bains, on the left bank, was the seat of an important Protestant colony, while Houlgate, on the right bank, attracted a richer Catholic clientele. The municipality was renamed Beuzeval-Houlgate in 1898; Beuzeval was eventually dropped from the name in 1905.
The 1880-1914 period was the Gilded Age of Houlgate, the two historical parts of the resort keeping distinct clienteles according to the religion. For instance, Queen Ranavalo of Madagascar stayed at the Grand Hôtel Imbert whereas queen Isabel II of Spain stayed at the Grand Hôtel de la Plage.
Houlgate has kept most of the 200 century estates built in the 19th century, including the five "American" estates: Junatia, Tacoma, Minnehaha, Merrimac and Columbia. In the hinterland, the Beuzeval Manor was built in 1865 in English Gothic style.

The coast between Trouville-sur-Mer and Cabourg is known as Côte Fleurie (The Flowered Coast). Several parts of the French seashore have received such alluding names. The most famous of these coasts is the Côte d'Azur, a name coined by Stephen Liégeard in 1887 to popularize the French Riviera.
Different resorts of the Côte Fleurie claim to have invented this nickname. The expression seems to have been coined in 1903 during a public conference by Count Raymond Constant d'Yanville (1862-1941), President of the Société d'Horticulture de l'Arrondissement de Pont-l'Evêque. It is not sure, however, that Yanville actually invented the expression. The tourist guide released in 1905 by the municipality of Houlgate was subtitled La Côte Fleurie. Since the two municipal gardeners of Houlgate had attended Yanville's conference, it is highly probable that they encouraged the municipality to use the nickname. In 1909, the subtitle was changed to La Perle de la Côte Fleurie, unchanged until today. In 1912, Deauville and Cabourg adopted the nicknames of La Plage Fleurie (The Flowered Beach) and La Plage des Fleurs (The Flowers' Beach), respectively.

Ivan Sache, 6 January 2004

Flag of Houlgate

The flag of Houlgate is white with the municipal logo adopted in 2018 (official presentation).

Former flags of Houlgate

[Flag]         [Flag]

Former flags of Houlgate - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 4 September 2016, and Arnaud Leroy, 6 January 2004

The former flag of Houlgate was white with the logo adopted in 2009 or 2010.
An even older flag was white with another logo.
The green "H" of Houlgate, with a yellow horizontal bar, could symbolize the former two parts of the sea resort and the beach which links them.
The coat or arms of Houlgate, in use at least since 1947, is "Gules a bend sinister between two lions passant or three scallops sable".

Olivier Touzeau, Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 4 September 2019

Tourism flags seen in Houlgate


Tourism flag of Houlgate - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 4 September 2019

In 2009, the tourist office of Houlgate used a flag including a logo that has remained in use until recently and could still be seen in 2019 on the website of the tourist office [former website].

The building featured on the logos is the former Grand Hôtel d'Houlgate, erected in 1859 by the Caen-based architect Jacques-Claude Baumier (1824-1886), His son, René-Jacques Baumier (1864-1905), added two storeys and the side pavilions in 1896. The emblematic rotunda was erected in 1904.
The Grand Hôtel was highly prized by the celebrities of the time, such as the Prince of Wales (subsequently, Edward VII), the King and Queen of Naples, the Prince Napoléon and the Princess de Broglie, the Princess Orloff and the Marquess de Gouvion-Saint-Cyr.

Counting 350 customers and 150 employees in 1914, the Grand Hôtel was transformed in hospital during the Second World War. Re-opened in 1917, it was acquired by Frank Jay Gould (1877-1956), the founder of the Juan-les-Pins sea resort in Antibes, who revamped it and appointed Mr and Mrs Paclarella, director of Hôtel Le Proven├žal in Juan-les-Pins, as managers. Eventually closed in 1939, the building was transformed in 1945 in a private residence (website).
The former Grand Hôtel d'Houlgate was registered on the list of Historical Monuments on 12 May 2000 (registration).

The white building shown in the foreground of the logo is the casino.
Erected in "Versailles style" - but made of concrete - in 1907 by the architects Virault and Mauclire, the casino was very successful in the interbellum. It included a theater, a resident troop of 10 actors and a resident orchestra of 10 musicians.
[Ouest France, 1 August 2018]


Tourism flag of Houlgate - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 4 September 2019

In summer and autumn 2003, the tourist office of Houlgate used a white flag including a different logo and the motto La Perle de la Côte Fleurie.

Olivier Touzeau, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 4 September 2019