In the 19th century, the growing of olive trees and trading of oil was one of Salon’s major resources. With the wealth of this raw material, the town began to follow the lead of Marseille, manufacturing soap according to the rules laid down in the Colbert decree since 1688.
The town did well from this. The large oil resources, combined with the progressive mechanisation of production and the arrival of the railway line in 1871, helped Salon become one of the main regional centres trading in oil and soap. Oil merchants and soap makers took over empty plots of land for their businesses around the centre of Salon, near the railway station.
From the 1870s, factories were built, but also a large number of villas, their impressive appearance demonstrating the wealth of this industrial bourgeoisie.
Many of them were situated in the vicinity of and on Boulevard de la République and Boulevard de Nostradamus. Alone, they form an inventory of the architectural fashions of the last decades of the 19th century up to the 1920s.
Spearheading the town’s economy, these merchants also played an active role in its social and cultural life. For example, the construction of the Armand Theatre, inaugurated in 1884, was planned and funded by a rich merchant called Armand, who also left his fortune to it. During the same period, many “societies” were created, including the Arts Society, which began in 1886.
Although the First World War and then the 1929 depression brought these euphoric decades to a brutal stop, Salon has preserved a delightful architectural heritage, as well as traditional know-how from this period.