The legend of The Excelsior
The Excelsior, a way of life in Nancy
For more than one hundred years at the centre of Nancy, the Excelsior has delighted palates and pupils. The glorious symbol of the legendary great cafes of the «Belle Époque», the brasserie inaugurated during a carnival in 1911 remains the splendid witness of a past century. Its hundredth anniversary is an opportunity to delight us again with a few pages from its history. When the Excelsior came into existence at the initiative of Louis Moreau, brewer from Vézelise, the Est Republicain immediately hailed “the opening of a new and splendid public institution” called upon right away to «provide a brilliant and fruitful career».
But the great brasserie that established itself in the heart of the effervescent neighbourhood around the train station would be much more than a safe harbour for passers by and travellers seeking relaxation, luxury, calm and pleasure: right from its creation, the Excelsior would become one of the most distinguished masterpieces of the Ecole de Nancy. And under its typical Viennese Art Nouveau exterior facade, the immense 25 by 12 meter room entrusted to architects Lucien Weissemburger and Alexandre Mienville immediately offered a setting for the greatest talents of the Belle Époque.
To decorate the large bay windows of its five spans, Jacques Gruber created ten glass walls set in a copper frame that encloses glass mosaics and canopies worthy of the naturalist themes symbolic of the era: ferns, pines, and ginkgo biloba.
The bouquets of ferns attached to the ceiling are the work of sculptors Galetier and Burtin who worked on the moulding and beams. Adapted to the walls of the Excelsior, all of the solid mahogany furniture was designed in the Ateliers Majorelle. Three hundred lamps engraved copper chandeliers and wall sconces by Daum infuse the room with its harmonious ivory colour. A few years later, under an Art Deco influence, the bannister inspired by artistic ironworker Jean Prouvé was delivered.
Immediately adopted by the people of Nancy, for whom it became the essential place meeting and conversation, the Excelsior gradually filled itself with anecdotes and laughter, card games and dates, memorable evenings and celebrations, loves at first sight and reunions. The first notes from New Orleans that would become the city’s Jazz Festival were played within these walls. Spared by wars and bombings, protected by the people of Nancy who were concerned with preserving beauty, the brasserie was not subject to any of the changes imposed on the neighbourhood after the Second World War, and restoration work at the end of the 80s even returned its original splendour.
Classified as a historic monument in 1976, the Excelsior now shines as one of the most delicious expressions of beauty in all of French heritage.