The picture shows the Monte Carlo Casino of Monaco

The Casino de Monte Carlo in Monaco is represented on this gelatin silver print.

TT has a photo of the seafront from an unknown location that looked like the French Riviera to me in the 1920s, so I searched for a similar vintage photo of a seafront with a two-spired church and a Roman-style boathouse. Boy I was wrong. Come to find out that the church in the photo with the two spiers is a kind of church, but not a religious type (although the jury is out on this philosophical one); this building, so special seen from the ocean, is the Casino de Monte-Carlo. The photo is a panoramic view, an aerial photo; generally, aerial photography in 1920 was the responsibility of the armed forces, called the Girard Observers.

When researching where the “church” was, I decided not to use Google Images and to challenge my detective ability. The Roman Boathouse-like structure must have had something to do with water and is actually part of the Oceanographic Museum. So, I was pretty right about a “church” and a “boathouse!”

The Casino de Monte Carlo is a complex of gaming, entertainment and arts offices, housing the Opéra de Monte Carlo and the office of the Ballets de Monte Carlo. The complex is operated by the Société des Bains de Mer et du Cercle les Étrangers de Monaco, that is to say the bathing and bathing company for foreigners in Monaco. Why foreigners? The Casino’s founder believed that locals might be morally compromised if they worked or gambled in the casino, so they were banned. It is a place of income generation using foreigners’ money, and the income is mainly received by the royal family of Monaco, which has owned the founding company since the mid-19th century. The genius behind it all was, of course, a woman, Princess Consort of Monaco, Maria Caroline Gibert de Lametz (1793-1879), who became Grimaldi after her marriage to Florestan I (1816-1856). When they married, both were actors in France, and Florestan had no grand plans to be a prince; Marie Caroline was destined to be a princess however, as she was shrewd and cunning. It was her idea to turn Grimaldi poverty into Grimaldi fortune, and to do this she changed the tax laws and began the plan to emulate the greatest of all casinos, the Bad Homburg. She sued the entrepreneur responsible for Bad Homburg’s success, and within a few years persuaded him and his sick wife to move to Monaco, which at the time was not Monaco at all as we know it. know. It was a place with few roads. But Francois Blanc set up plans for a grand casino in 1863, its main investors being the Bishop of Monaco and Cardinal Pecci of Monaco, the future Pope Leo XIII. She named the company after her heir, the future Prince Charles/Carlo.

Mr. Blanc knew everyone, having lent money to the French Third Republic so that France could complete the grand Opera in Paris, and because of this he knew the greatest architect of the Beaux Arts, Charles Garnier, who designed and built the Paris Opera, now the Palais Garnier. The Monte Carlo designs of 1878-79 became the fabulous architecture we see today, after being extensively altered inside, but the facade is that of M. Garnier.

Because it’s now Monaco and everything that name implies, the Casino Monte Carlo (which looks like a church) has been the center of the luxury gambling world for years. After all, it’s James Bond’s favorite casino, seen in Never say neverand of course golden eye. Ocean’s Twelve happened there in 2004. And much more, such as experiments in physics: “The Monte Carlo effect”, and various notorious players who tried to thwart the predictions in such a sumptuous setting.

The first was “The Man Who Broke the Bank in Monte Carlo” (1892) celebrated in an eponymous song by vaudevillian Charles Coburn, about the discovery of a quirky roulette wheel. Another attempt to break the casino bank was written by Ben Mezrich as a team of MIT students try “Knock down the house,” and in “Break Vegasa young team of math geeks (based on a true story) try to break the bank by counting cards. The books describe the institution’s reactions to MIT students (whoa).

The value of the photo, although I can see it is a gelatin silver print, is not that high because the photo is unsigned.

Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Monday in the News-Press.

Written after his father was diagnosed with COVID-19, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that culminate in personal triumphs over current constraints. It is available from Chaucer in Santa Barbara.

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