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From 1854 to today
In 1854, Captain Louis Tardy de Montravel was looking to establish, to the southwest of the colony, a new fortified military post. After having considered Saint-Vincent Bay, he chose that of « Numéa », with its deep harbour and being well-protected from the prevailing winds. He took possession and named the site « Port-de-France » on 25 June 1854. A major part of today’s city was, at this point, still under water.
Montravel began by building Fort Constantine (named after his ship) on a hill dominating the coastline opposite Nou Island.
In 1855, the first plan of the city was drawn up by Engineering Officer Paul Coffyn. It consisted of 810 plots of 3.2 to 16.4 ares (1 are being the equivalent of 100 square metres). This plan wou
ld be revised in 1869. Coffyn also provided for the levelling of a small hill, the Conneau, in order to build a jetty for the port. The work began in 1857 and would take twenty years to
complete! It included draining and backfilling the majority of what is today’s city centre.
However, Montravel had chosen a site lacking in springs or rivers and the absence of drinking water rapidly became a major problem. It would take until 1877 for a twelve-kilometre trench to be dug, which would bring water into the city from the Yahoué River catchment area. On 26 June 1859, by Captain’s Special Order, Port-de-France became a municipality, with a mayor and a municipal body made up of eleven members appointed by the Administration. This municipal institution was, however, disbanded the following year. A new council would be appointed … fourteen years later. In the meantime, on 2 June 1866, Port- de-France was renamed Noumea, in order to avoid any confusion with Fort-de-France in Martinique…
To know more
25 June 1854 : Port-de-France is born, being renamed Noumea on 2 June 1866.
1856 : Noumea’s inhabitants number 921, including 113 military personnel.
1858 : building of Noumea’s first church, Sainte-Clothilde, which was destroyed by fire in 1890
150 years of construction
The two earliest roads in Port-de-France were rue Paul Doumer (originally named Gout and then Montebello) and rue de Sébastapol (rue Foucher). The next to be built were rue de la République (Testard) and rue Lebris, which became rue de l’Alma in 1860... Read more
The origins of different neighbourhoods
- Baie des Citrons – Lemon Bay : formerly known as Anse du Styx (Styx Cove) after an steam sloop. The lemon trees planted at the back of the beach in the late 1800’s led to it being referred to as Baie des Citrons or Lemon Bay. Today, it’s simply known as the BD…
Anse Vata : first called Baie des Canards, or Duck Bay, then Anse des Santals (Sandalwood Cove). In the Drubea-Kapone language it was known as « ouata », pronounced wata – hence the name “Vata”
Montravel, the founder
Born in Vincennes, in 1811, Louis Tardy de Montravel proved to be a brilliant student during his time at Navel College.