Intendant Tourny, a Frenchman who wanted to make Bordeaux “a beautiful façade to impress the visitor” in the 18th century, redeveloped its quays.

At the Porte des Salinieres in the middle of his project is a medieval gate that opens onto the old ditch at the town hall (current Cours Victor Hugo). This semicircle square is lined with uniform homes whose line runs along the river from north to the Cour des Aides to south to Quai De la Monnaie.

Tourny asked Ange-Jacques Gabriel to design the facades. He also requested that Andre Portier rebuild the new monumental door. The construction began in 1750. The original design was flanked initially by two pedestrian counters. These were removed in 1807.

The dedication of the gate to Louis, Duke of Burgundy (1751-1761), was done in 1751. He was the first son of Dauphin Louis and eldest child of Louis XV. It will not be complete until 1755, four years after the dedication of the gate. Six years after the death of the young prince, the square will still be connected to the right bank via the stone bridge built in 1802. The name Burgundy will remain on the square for many years. From 1882 to 1947.

Bir-Hakeim was later given its current name to honor the brave resistance of the Free French Forces against the Germans in the Libyan Desert, during World War II.

The Battle of Bir Hakeim is named after a disused waterhole located in the middle of the Libyan Desert, south of Tobruk. It began on May 27th and will conclude June 11. General Koenig’s 1st Free French Brigade, the future 1st Free French Division, resisted attacks by the more numerous German and Italian motorized armies (the Deutsches Afrikakorps), during these 16 days.

The Free French provided a temporary respite, allowing the British to fall back and win a strategic victory in the First Battle of El Alamein, July 1942.

The Porte de Bourgogne has been designated a historic monument. All buildings on the square have been listed.

> To read: Annie Descas’s “Dictionary of the Streets of Bordeaux”. Editions Sud Ouest 2008. EUR24.90.