Built on the banks of the Barley, Dourdan owes its notoriety, from Gallo-Roman times, to its workshops of potters. Strategic site on wheat road connecting the Beauce to Paris, Dourdan played a role in almost all the wars of the History of France. Historic city still surrounded by its ramparts, Dourdan is today the testimony of a still alive past and a well preserved architectural heritage.
The town of Dourdan, built in a natural basin, bordered by plateaus, has developed over the centuries around its historic heart and its 13th century fortified castle. Historic capital of the Hurepoix, Dourdan has a varied heritage: Gallo-Roman pottery with houses on catalogs characteristic of urban expansion in the Île-de-France at the turn of the twentieth century.
Situated on the wheat road linking the vast cereal plateau of the Beauce to Paris, Dourdan is for centuries a center of trade and commerce as evidenced by the old market place in the grain market and its halls. This medieval foundation, which was replaced in 1836 by a new building, still today houses merchants and craftsmen.
City of potters: Built on the banks of the Barley, Dourdan is a pottery production center from Gallo-Roman times until the end of the Middle Ages. The archaeological excavations carried out in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries brought to light several ovens and a very rich collection of archaeological pottery preserved today in the castle museum of Dourdan.
Royal City: The medieval period consecrated Dourdan as royal city. Hugues the Great, duke of France, died in Dourdan in 956. At the accession of his son, the city became property of the Crown of France. Cradle of the Capetians, Dourdan has a first wooden castle whose location is not yet determined. In 1220, Philip II Augustus chose to erect a powerful stone fortress in the heart of the city, which was completed in two years. A remarkable example of military architecture, this castle has become, over the centuries, the prerogative of the grandees of the kingdom, from the family of Evreux to the Dukes of Orleans.
The Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion lead to a period of conflict. Successive sieges in the 15th and 16th centuries led to the burning of the city archives, the destruction of the upper parts of the castle and the church of Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois. To protect itself, Dourdan has an urban enclosure whose imprint and vestiges still mark the current plan of the city.
A new prosperity: After the reconquest of the city by the troops of Henri IV in 1591, the city begins to rebuild. Woolen industries, mills bring new prosperity. The development of the suburbs beyond the gates of the city, along the main axes linking Dourdan to Etampes, Châteaudun, Paris and Chartres, testify to this new dynamism. The governors of the city, in the name of the family of Orleans, owner of Dourdan, settle in the castle of Parterre, erected in 1725, today City Hall.
The old fortress then lost its defensive role and welcomed, from 1672, for two centuries, prisoners, thieves and beggars. The royal prison, now departmental and communal, is located in the castle, royal auditorium, forestry administration, then a mutual school from 1836.
Resort town: The second half of the 19th century brought many changes to the city. The castle, which has become private property, is undergoing a period of restoration, study and redevelopment. It was bought by the City in 1969.
The arrival of the train in 1866 attracted a new population. Publishers set up shop in Dourdan and carry on the train catalogs offering everyone the opportunity to choose his house. Like other cities in Ile-de-France, Dourdan becomes a holiday resort. Many residences are built on the outskirts of Dourdan, especially in the district of the station. Many of these houses still shape the urban landscape.
From the medieval historical heart to the construction of the outlying districts, the city of Dourdan still pursues a policy combining urban evolution and conservation of its heritage.