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After Plombières, Vichy was the other great spa in fashion under the Second Empire. Already in 1799, Laetitia Bonaparte, in the company of her son, Louis, took the waters of this spa known since Gallo-Roman antiquity. Under the Empire, the Park of Springs was layed out on the personal order of the Emperor following the decree of Gumbinen in 1812. In 1813, it was Julie Claire's turn to take the waters at Vichy.

From 1840 on, the future imperial aristocracy discovered the spa, but it was Napoleon III who assured the prosperity of the town by undergoing cures on five occasions (1861,1862, 1863, 1864 and 1866). Starting with his first visit, the Emperor ordered the construction of a certain number of public buildings destined to promote the expansion of the town (the town hall, the church, the train station, the casino). These were complimented by other urban planning projects (quays, parks, roads).

The first residence of Napoleon III at Vichy in 1861 was the dwelling of Isaac Strauss, directer of the Court Balls given at the Tuileries. It is today an annex of the Aletti Palace Hotel. The other years, he settled with his suite in the chalets, named for the Emperor, that had been built in the meantime along the boulevard bearing his name (today the boulevard des Etats-Unis) and along the Napoleon Park bordering the Allier. These pavilions, private property, cannot be visited.

If the town hall has disappeared, the casino and the Saint-Louis Church have been preserved. Inaugurated July 2, 1865, the first casino is attributed to Charles Badger who designed an eclectic building of which the facade is still decorated with caryatids symbolizing the seasons by Carrier-Belleuse. Transformed and expanded in 1995 to become the Opera Conference Center, it is only accessible to conference participants. The Saint-Louis Church is, on the other hand, open everyday. Inaugurated, like the casino, in 1865, it has written on its tympanum is the following inscription: “To God and to Saint-Louis the Emperor Napoleon III took the care to have built at his own expense this church.” In the apse, a series of stained glass windows evoke the members of the imperial family: Saint-Napoleon, Saint-Louis, Saint-Eugenie, Saint-Hortense, Saint-Charles and Saint-Eugene, Saint-Jean, Saint-Joseph (the given names of the Imperial Prince).

It is interesting to note that a bust of Napoleon III given by the Fondation Napoléon was installed in 1991 in the park bearing his name. It recalls the particular attachment the Emperor had to the city of Vichy. As evidence of this attachment is this citation: “I am more pleased here than anywhere else, for this is my creation.”

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