Old postcard - Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, le Pont de la FolieOld postcard - Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, le Pont de la Folie
©Old postcard - Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, le Pont de la Folie

Georges Durand

The start of tourism in the Alpes Mancelles

Two key factors in the development of tourism in the Alpes Mancelles were the construction of railroad lines and the creation of the Syndicat d’Initiative in 1904. One man, Georges Durand, contributed to build the reputation of the Alpes Mancelles. Known to a large number of Sarthe residents, he was a founding member of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and was behind the first edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1923.

Georges DurandGeorges Durand
©Georges Durand
Georges Durand

Founder of Syndicat d'Initiatives des Alpes Mancelles

A passionate

car enthusiast

Georges Durand was born in Fresnay-sur-Sarthe in 1864, and grew up in a modest family of Sarthe weavers. At the age of 20, he moved to Le Mans and began a career as a stenographer. In the course of his encounters with other people, he discovered the automobile, and quickly developed a passion for this new sector, which was booming at the time.

Like a “sportsman”, he joined the first auto-cycling clubs (Union Auto Cycliste de la Sarthe, Touring Club de France), took part in car races throughout France, and took part in several airplane and balloon flights. An entrepreneur at heart, he founded the Automobile Club de la Sarthe (now the Automobile Club de l’Ouest) and the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, inaugurated in 1923.

He said

I’ll make it my business!

Georges Durand said these words in 1922 when the idea of a 24-hour race was broached.


of Tourism

Georges Durand nonetheless remained faithfully in love with his native land and fully appreciated the tourist potential of the Alpes Mancelles. A visionary, he saw the railroads and the automobile as unprecedented means of access for this territory away from the big cities.

In 1904, he founded the Syndicat d’Initiative des Alpes Mancelles (now the Office de Tourisme des Alpes Mancelles – Alpes Mancelles Tourist Office) and never stopped promoting tourism there: he created a public carriage service between Fresnay-sur-Sarthe and Saint-Léonard-des-Bois, wrote the first Alpes Mancelles illustrated tourist guides and distributed numerous advertising posters of the region.