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We are a non-profit foundation, guided by the humanist vision of poet and entrepreneur Charles Corm —

founded to promote and support the cultural and natural heritage of Lebanon in partnership with Saint-Joseph University.

The foundation is based in the Charles Corm House. This 1920s white tower, is open to the public for the first time in over 50 years.

Transformed into a multipurpose space, it welcomes writers, artists, scholars and innovators.

 

Our Mission

Rather than a foundation focused on the past, we want our activities to adapt to Lebanon's current and future needs.

We offer programs for all age groups and in several languages, to inform and inspire, based on the following three pillars —

Defend our natural
heritage

Charles Corm's commitment to nature and wildlife is our starting point for promoting sustainable development and the protection of biodiversity.

Provide a
platform for exchange

As in Charles Corm's time, the building and its garden have been designed to encourage exchange and dialogue, with spaces for exhibitions, conferences, performances, workshops and film screenings.

Revisit
our history

Our archive sheds light on the literary, political and economic life of Lebanon in the twentieth century. By making it accessible and encouraging cross-readings we hope to show its relevance today.

 




Who was

Charles Corm?

Charles Corm (1894-1963) was a Lebanese writer and entrepreneur. He was the son of the pioneer painter Daoud Corm (1852-1930).

In 1913, he founded with his father La Maison d'Art, the first art shop of its kind which also sold early cameras, typewriters and copying machines.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Corm fled conscription into the Ottoman army and set about relieving the inhabitants of Mount Lebanon who had been hit by a terrible famine, orchestrated by a blockade on grain which was made worse by an attack of locusts. He collected what little crops could be saved and organized clandestine mobile soup kitchens in a region ravaged by hunger. He also set up ulifting plays to raise moral, with his small theatre company, the "Lebanese Trestles."

In the immediate post-war period, he would be tasked by the occupying French army with the civil supply of Beirut (ravitaillement).

1919 was a year of intense political flux for Lebanon and Syria. Corm, eager to define his vision for the nascent Lebanese state founded the journal La Revue Phénicienne. It was a platform to express his ideas and those of intellectuals of his generation who shared his view of a liberal independent Lebanese state. Amongst the contributors to La Revue Phénicienne was Michel Chiha, who is considered the father of the Lebanese constitution.

Very quickly however, Corm turned his attention to business, setting up in 1921 the “Société Générale Industrielle et Commerciale.” He would import to the region Ford automobiles, most notably the famous T-Model. Corm proved to be a good businessman and his company was instrumental in the development of cars and modern agriculture in the region.



At the age of 40, Corm left the world of business to dedicate his life to poetry and writing. He also used the opportunity to marry Samia Baroudy (1913-2010), Miss Lebanon 1935. They moved into the former headquarters of his company that now became a family home and a meeting point for Lebanon’s artistic and intellectual set.

Over the course of his lifetime, Corm wrote a prodigious number of poems. His most famous book, La Montagne Inspirée, received the Edgar Allan Poe International Poetry Prize in 1934. To this day, ten volumes of poetry have been published, in addition to short stories, plays and novels.

Alongside his literary work, Corm was active in the promotion of his country and its history. In 1939, he organized Lebanon’s pavilion at the New York’s World Fair themed, the "world of tomorrow." Though the country had no technical inventions to show, the pavilion was a great success for the story it had to tell: that of an ancient people with a proud history.


After the Second World War, Corm set up in his home the Amitiés Libanaises (Lebanese Friendships), a program of lectures on the arts, literature and sciences. It would become a place for the exchange of ideas, amongst Lebanese and foreign intellectuals, mirroring the country's increasingly liberal reputation during that period.

Over the course of his life, Corm helped kick off many of Lebanon’s institutions. He was a founding member of the National Library of Beirut, the Friends of the Trees Society and the Friends of the Museum of Beirut. Throughout his career, he received national and international honours and awards, including New York’s Citizen of Honour in 1939 and the Académie Française’s Medal of Honour in 1950.

He died in his home in Beirut, in 1963 from heart failure at the age of 69.

 

The Charles Corm House

Like a lighthouse that illuminates Beirut, Charles Corm's white tower was for a long time one of the tallest structures in the city.

Designed in 1928 by Corm himself, to house the Ford dealership for the Levant, the building is a nod to the American skyscrapers built at the time. Aside from its offices, the building included a showroom and outdoor spaces to assemble the cars and tractors.

At the end of the 1930s, Corm married and turned his office building into a family home. It was here that his four children grew up surrounded by Art Deco and Bauhaus furniture and an impressive library.

The Garden

At the back of the building is one of the last green spaces in Beirut. The garden counts a majestic Asian bamboo grove, mango trees and a towering cypress that miraculously survived the war. The garden is also home to a nursery that contains many of the plants present in Corm's days. The pots of jasmines, gardenias, pines and aloe vera are a kind of plant memento. And peppered around the garden are statues by the sculptor Youssef Hoayek, (1882-1962) whose atelier was in the garden.

 

The Library and Archives

With a rich archive accumulated by Charles Corm over the course of his life, the foundation seeks to bring to light historical documents such as reports relating to the King Crane Commission, letters between Corm and intellectuals of his time, and an impressive corpus related to the activity of the Ford dealership in the Levant at the dawn of the automobile age in the region.

The archive also includes the author's library, which in its day was one of the largest in the country, containing novels, poetry, essays, art books, as well as periodicals and newspapers in various languages.

Far from taking a nostalgic look at the past, our goal is to create links between the archives' historical dimension and the world today. We hope that these archives will be of interest to researchers, artists, as well as the general public, curious about the cultural effervescence in which Lebanon was immersed in the first half of the twentieth century.