The Musée de l’Histoire Locale founded in 1998 is in the house named “Maria”, bought by the City of Fréjus on 15 December 1986. This house was listed on the inventory of Historic Monuments by decree on 18 June 1987. Maria is the name of the last owner prior to 1986. Jacques Félix Girardin, doctor of theology and parish priest of Fréjus and better known as Abbot Girardin, was born in this house on 13 November 1679. He died in 1759. He wrote the first history of Fréjus in French. Canon Anthelmi’s history in Latin, concerned only the bishops.
Through its collections, brought together by the Amis du Pays de Fréjus association and the municipality, the museum presents different aspects of social, economic and cultural life in Fréjus in the 20th and 21st century in an old Provencal mansion.
A mansion is a type of French dwelling, consisting of a luxurious house built within a city, designed to be inhabited by only one family (as well as its servants).
In Provence, mansions retained the Gothic or Renaissance style front façade. As being directly on the street lost its prestige, a particular “Parisian” style of mansion was set back, at the bottom of the courtyard. The rear facade overlooks the garden, hence the expression “between courtyard and garden”.
The plot on which the museum is located has been identified since the 16th century. An extension to the building was also mentioned in the 16th century when the city extended outside its walls. Today, the house is more the reflection of the building work undertaken in 1882.
The house has a beautiful stairwell with several landings, a kitchen with an open mantel fireplace and a so-called ‘pile’, an imposing stone sink and a garden, which is both an amenity and a functional space. In this garden we find presses that are reminiscent of wine-making in Fréjus and the reconstruction of the workshop of the last Frejus farrier in rue Saint-François, Mr Musso, with his forge which was reconstituted in full. There are also a range of tools, testimonies to Fréjus’ agricultural past.
The “Bugado” scene is a reminder that the linen was washed in a public wash house.
Authentic Provencal headdresses and costumes decorate the reception room on the first floor, where a 17th century painting with a view of Fréjus hangs. A room is dedicated to the ‘Bravade’, a traditional religious feast that takes place on the 3rd Sunday after Easter, in honour of Saint-François de Paule who, according to tradition, freed Fréjus from the plague in 1482. Two 18th century paintings representing Bishop de Castellane and Bishop de Fleury are also in this room.
The museum also has a reconstruction of an early 20th century schoolroom with, at the far end of the room, a sawdust stove, a 30s-40s grocery store, shoemaker, the naval air station which was the first in France in 1911, a numismatic display with a currency from Forum Iulii minted in 28-27 BC and a room in tribute to the tragedy of Malpasset, the Fréjus dam which broke on 2 December 1959.
Ceramic art is also represented because since antiquity Fréjus has been an important place for the production of decorative ceramics. A room is devoted to it with in particular original works by Dominique Zumbo (1854 – 1939), creator of the Manufacture des Arènes in Fréjus, whose style of ceramics with metallic reflections is close to Art Nouveau.