Destinations Magazine

Gare Saint-Louis: Once a Railway Station, Now a Deserted Shopping Mall

By Invisiblebordeaux
Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mallWe find ourselves in a run-down part of a Leclerc shopping center in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. The building in question used to be one of the city’s railway stations: Gare Saint-Louis.
Invisible Bordeaux first encountered Gare Saint-Louis when researching the cycle path which runs all the way to Lacanau. The cycle path replaced a railway line which previously departed from Gare Saint-Louis. The station’s other destinations included Bordeaux Saint-Jean and the Médoc wine-growing area.
The station as features here is not what 19th-century travellers would have seen: at the time the “Gare du Médoc” was a wooden structure that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the American Mid-West. The first trains bound for Macau began operating in 1868, and the line was extended to Le Verdon in 1875. The Bordeaux-Lacanau line began operating in 1885.
The first-generation station was destroyed in a fire, with the new Art Deco terminal being completed around 1932 (architects listed as Henri Martin and Louis Trinquesse from Paris). Inside, the station boasted seven platforms (three for Lacanau/Médoc trains and four for the “ceinture” line which looped around to Saint-Jean) as well as a further five lines for goods trains. Saint-Louis continued to operate until April 1968 when town planning resulted in the railway line being shortened and the station being relocated 900 metres further north.

Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mall

Saint-Louis station as it was, and the way it looks today.

The new station retained the name Bordeaux Saint-Louis, before being renamed Ravezies station, in keeping with its location on Place Ravezies. The station remained the departure point for trains bound for the Médoc (the Lacanau line closed in 1978) until its closure in September 2012. It is soon to be replaced by a new tram-only station to be known as Cracovie.
Meanwhile, the art deco building became part of a Leclerc shopping center and, in recent years, has even been listed as a heritage site by UNESCO. As I was to discover when visiting one weekday morning, this hasn’t prevented the former station from slipping into a sad state of disrepair…
I was expecting the walls to form the backdrop to a lively shopping concourse. Instead, the area formerly occupied by the station is now home to just two businesses: a hairdresser’s (Saint M) and a bar (155th Avenue). The remainder is a succession of bricked-up outlets where, amongst others, a games arcade and a florist used to be. In the main hall, the upper floor which was added when the station became a shopping mall is now out-of-bounds. Peeking through the gates half-way up the stairs, signs remain of the buffet/cafeteria which operated there until 2007. According to some sources, the upper level then became a squat.

Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mall

Inside the deserted shopping mall.

Back on the ground floor, beyond the out-of-order telephone box and just next to the indoor entrance to the 155th Avenue bar, an intriguing statue of St Louis himself continues to stand proud, oblivious to the surrounding decay. A panel provides concise information about the saint (also known as Louis IX, born in Poissy in 1214, died Tunis in 1270) and his crusades, although much of the data has been obscured by graffiti. Below the statue is a mosaic font which has no doubt been short of holy water for many years…

Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mall

St Louis in all his glory (and a game of table football in progress).

While I was there, a couple of solitary shoppers walked past me en route to the Leclerc supermarket, while most people favour an entrance which is located on the other side of the building. Substantial extension work is currently in progress on the main Leclerc wing of the structure, suggesting the shop is doing well and continuing to expand.
Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mall
Meanwhile, the Saint-Louis station wing appears quite simply to have been abandoned. Once home, I compared a photo I had just taken with one I’d taken two years ago. On one side of the station building, a Leclerc logo has discreetly been taken down. Does this mean the supermarket has completely disowned the former station?

Gare Saint-Louis: once a railway station, now a deserted shopping mall

The modern, main entrance to the Leclerc supermarket, while the shop's station-side logo has disappeared
between the shots on the right, taken in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

As so often, I’ll sign off by saying it will be interesting to see what becomes of the building in coming years. Will the supermarket reclaim the station, redevelop it and bring it back to life, or will it continue pretending it’s not there, possibly hoping it will just go away? Only time will tell.
  • Find it: Cours Saint-Louis, Bordeaux.
This archive video includes footage of the station as it was on the day the final train departed, in April 1968:
 
Click here if video does not display properly on your device.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Magazines