Construction of Fort-Royal

Fort-de-France is the capital of Martinique. It is located in the heart of Martinique between the municipalities of Schoelcher to the west, Fonds-Saint-Denis to the north, Saint-Joseph and Lamentin to the east.

The history of Fort-de-France goes back even before colonization. The current territory was a land where the Carib Indians had lived for probably several centuries before the arrival of French settlers.

On the arrival of the French settlers, Martinique was divided into two parts between the former occupants and the new arrivals. The Carib Indians favors the windward coast (Atlantic coast) while the French opt for the leeward coast, namely the Caribbean coast.

First of all, Saint-Pierre will be built at the mouth of the Roxelane river. War is raging between the colonial powers who want to wrest from France one of the large islands of the Lesser Antilles and it is in its large bay that the various enemy ships arrive. It therefore appears essential to protect yourself from attacks in this area. This is how a fort will be built on the heights of this territory. The advantage of Fort de France was that the site was easy to defend and well protected from storms, unlike the harbor of Saint Pierre.

Later, Fort de France will take a more administrative and political posture by being the land of reception of the residence of Governor Jacques Dyel du Parquet in 1639, 4 years after the arrival of the French. He had a palisade fort built there, which he called Fort Royal.

However, it was Governor Jean-Charles de Baas who decided to found the city under the name of Fort Royal on October 3, 1669. Work to clean up the previously unhealthy swamps was undertaken, the alignment plan for the tracks of the future city was approved by Colbert in 1671.

However, the construction of building a city there encountered dissenting voices. The loose soil does not favor the constructions and the air of the swamps causes a strong mortality by the malaria. Numerous hydraulic developments are necessary and will require more than a century to be fully implemented.

The year 1674 was marked by the famous battle of Fort-Royal between the Dutch and the French to take possession of the city and the attachment of the French islands of the Antilles to the Crown of France.

In November 1677, the Count of Blénac landed in Martinique to succeed the Governor of Baas who had just died. It is him who completes the construction of the city and who will be definitively recognized as the founder of the city of Fort Royal. He is also at the origin of the transfer of the seat of the General Government and the Palace of the Governor from Saint Pierre to Fort Royal in 1692. This is how the city becomes the new administrative capital of Martinique.

In 1738, Fort de France was devastated by an earthquake. The consequences of the earthquake are unknown.

After a failure of the 1759 sea attack, the English succeeded in storming Fort-Royal by land following a landing of troops at Case Navire (now Schoelcher). In 1762, all of Martinique passed under the English flag. It was returned to France a year later via the Treaty of Paris.

Georges-René Pléville Le Pelley was then appointed Captain of the port of Fort Royal and was in charge of its rehabilitation. He will clean up the basin in order to restore access to the port, open it up to large commercial buildings, eliminate port access taxes and revive maritime trade.

Sick, he returned to France and was replaced by Robert Tascher de la Pagerie, the father of the future Empress Joséphine.

From Fort-Royal to Fort-de-France

In 1794 following the abolition of slavery in the French colonies, the local landowners joined forces with the British who conquered the island. Martinique will not know the abolition of slavery in 1794. In 1802, while slavery was reestablished by Napoleon in France, the entry of Captain General Villaret-Joyeuse to Fort-Royal on September 14, 1802 consecrates the return from Martinique to France following the "Peace of Amiens" treaty signed with England.

It was under the Empire in 1807 that Fort-Royal became the capital of the colony and was then baptized Fort-de-France. Fort de France, however, remains far behind the reputation of Saint-Pierre, the economic and cultural capital of the island.

Fort-de-France will have to wait for the end of slavery to hatch with the arrival of former slaves now free and mulattoes. The population of the city then goes from 9,200 inhabitants at the beginning of the 19th century to 17,000 inhabitants around 1876. Despite everything, Fort-de-France remains a city where most of the jobs are still agricultural.

The city is struck by various human or natural disasters which destroy it:

  • the earthquake of January 11, 1839,
  • then a big fire which destroyed 3/4 of the city including almost all of the 1,600 houses built of wood to mitigate the consequences of a future earthquake, the market, the Saint-Louis cathedral on June 22, 1890 and
  • the following year a cyclone which fell on the city and made more than 400 victims.

Fort-de-France new capital

Ironically, it was following a natural disaster that Fort-de-France became the only capital of the island. Following the eruption of Mount Pelée, Saint Pierre was completely destroyed and all its inhabitants who remained there died except two survivors. The population of the north of the island migrates massively to Fort-de-France which replaces Saint-Pierre by recovering the industrial, economic and commercial functions of the island.

The Mayor of the time, Victor Sévère then relaunched the sanitation and municipalization project of Terres-Sainville, a vast swamp located to the northwest of the city. It was not until 1920, however, that the work was carried out there. A modern district is born and then attracts a working population. In its wake, the districts of Sainte Thérèse, Morne Pichevin and Dillon are born and are born along the roads.

In the 1930s, on the heights of the city and away from the city center, wealthy colonial-style residences were built demonstrating the contrast between a modest city center and the splendor of these new dwellings.

Subsequently, the sugar crisis will accelerate the rural exodus and emigration to the metropolis (BUMIDOM) with a gradual closure of sugar factories in favor of jobs in services, in particular administrative.

In 1946, when Martinique became a French department, Fort-de-France was then populated by 60,600 inhabitants. Later, many makeshift homes were built there and new neighborhoods were created. Around 1975, Fort de France was now populated by 100,000 inhabitants. 40% of the dwellings that were built did not receive any authorization and the unhealthy districts regrouped 1/4 of the population of the municipality.

At the same time, Aimé Césaire, then mayor of the town, set up the construction of large social housing complexes allowing the birth of the cities of Dillon, Floréal, Bon-Air and Calebasse between 1960 and 1970 and Châteauboeuf in the 1980s. also during this period that a zone of more residential districts emerged (Cluny, Bellevue, Des Rochers, etc ...).

Since 1990, the population of Fort-de-France has been declining in favor of surrounding towns such as Schoelcher, Saint-Joseph, Le Lamentin and even Ducos have established suburban housing estates and collective housing units.

In 1997, the population of Fort de France was less than 90,000 inhabitants.

In the outskirts of the city, urban restructuring operations aimed at making the city attractive (Pointe Simon business center, Perrinon shopping center, etc.)



Fort-de-France has more than 135 neighborhoods in total. Its main districts are Balata, Bellevue, Canal Alaric, Châteaubœuf, Citron, Clairière, Cluny, Coridon, Crozanville, Desrochers, Didier, Dillon, Godissard, Fond, d'Or, Jambette-Beauséjour, Langellier-Bellevue, La Meynard, La Médaille, L'Ermitage, Montgérald, Morne Calebasse, Morne Laurent, Morne Morissot, Morne Pichevin, Morne Tartenson, Morne Venté, Moutte, Pointe de la Vierge, Pointe des Sables, Pointe des Nègres, Post-Colon, Ravine-Bouillé, Ravine-Vilaine, Redoute, Renéville, Rodate, Rive Droite (Bo kannal), Sainte-Catherine, Sainte-Thérèse, Terres-Sainville, Texaco, Tivoli, Trénelle and Volga-Plage.

List of places to visit in the municipality

Distilleries & Rhumeries

Distillerie Dillon owes its name to Count Arthur Dillon, general and hero of the American Revolutionary War.

La Favorite distillery was born in 1842 between Fort-de-France and Lamentin under the name of "Distillery Jambette", named after the river that fed it.

Places to visit

Positioned across from the Savane in Fort-de-France, the building of glass and iron mixes Romano-Byzantine, Art Nouveau and neo-Egyptian influences.

St. Louis Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It is located in the heart of the city of Fort-de-France. On neogothic inspiration, his arrow would measure about 59 meters. Placed under the patronage of the King of France St.

The cultural center Camille Darsières is located in the old courthouse, a neoclassical building designed by entrepreneur Gustave de Laguarigue in 1906. It is located at the intersection of the streets Perrinon, Schoelcher and Moreau-de-Jones.

Fort Desaix overlooking the city of Fort-de-France was erected between 1765 and 1774 on the Morne Garnier at 146 meters above sea level.

The fortress of Fort-Saint-Louis built in a "Vauban" style was erected in the 17th century by Jacques Dyel du Parquet, then lieutenant-general of Martinique in the bottom of Anglo-French rivalry for possession of the island.

If there are two unmissable visits to do when you go to Martinique, it is the Habitation Clément and Jardin de Balata.

The maison d'Aimé Césaire (Aimé Césaire's house) is the place where you can learn the most about the poet during your stay on the island.

This green area of about 5 hectares is the point of reference in the city of Fort-de-France.