The history of Noumea
Noumea, formerly called Port-de-France, has a special history, closely linked to the one of the convicts.
In 1854, the Captain Tardy de Montravel made Nouméa the administrative and military center of the French presence in New Caledonia. In 1860, the Nouville Penitentiary was built.
Noumea develops slowly. For this reason, from 1863, convicts convoys are organized from the mainland to increase the settler population.
Prisoners have other advantages, notably that of being a low-cost workforce. They are requisitioned for the construction of the city. The work is enormous since Noumea is situated between the hills and a marshy area that will need to be dried by big embankments.
The construction of the city
The colonial administration must quickly build the necessary infrastructure.
City plans are entrusted to Mr. Coffyn who designs a very straight downtown with perfectly perpendicular and parallel streets from Coconut Place. This is also the place that represents the heart of downtown Noumea, divided into 4 squares with tall coconut trees, from which it takes its name. The esplanade has been renovated and made pedestrian.
You can find everything you need: governments offices, banks, shops, travel agencies, museum and Gaston Bourret Hospital, built on the site of the first building erected in Nouméa, the Fort Constantine.
A little further, the Asian district colors the city center with small shops for clothing, souvenirs, food, etc. The Covered Municipal Market is located in Port Moselle and is a great place to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.
From an architecture standpoint, there is not many traces of the colonial era. Most of the buildings are from the era of "nickel boom" of the late 60s.
Twice a month, the "Thursdays downtown" are organised on the Coconut Square to highlight the cultural aspect of New Caledonia: a region, crafts, local products ... This popular event gives life to the city center which is sometimes neglected to the profit of the beaches.