Lying on the mouth of the Seine estuary, the great sea and naval port of Le Havre was created in 1517 by François I as a replacement for Harfleur, which had become silted up. From the time of the American War of Independence, when supplies were shipped from Le Havre to the 'rebel' forces, the port grew into a great transatlantic harbour. In the mid 19th-century, ships sailed regularly from here to New York, with crossings taking about two weeks! Later, faster speeds were achieved by liners like the Normandie, the Ile-de-France and the France, which all used Le Havre as their home base. During the Second World War Le Havre was a key strategic target of both Allies and Germans. It is recorded that the city received some 146 raids where more than 4000 people were killed, nearly 10,000 dwellings were destroyed, and a similar number partially destroyed. Following the city's liberation on 13th September 1944 it took two years to clear away the debris so that re-building could commence. The responsibility for the design of a fine new city was given to the Parisian architect Auguste Perret, a pioneer of the use of reinforced concrete to create elegant structures. The resultant plan retained the grid layout used by the Italian architect of the original Le Havre in the 16th-century, but this was adapted by Perret to create, through a harmonious balance of buildings, space and light, a place with wide boulevards and a new openess, quite unlike the claustrophobic town it replaced. A tour around this highly regarded city is both exciting and rewarding. The Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville is one of the largest town squares in Europe. It is set out with pools, fountains, lawns and flowerbeds which all serve to soften the severity of the buildings, and the town hall with its 236ft great concrete tower. Nearby are the Avenue Foch and the Rue de Paris, the former pointing towards the open sea, the latter leading to the ferry terminals. The Avenue Foch, with its trees and statues, offers pleasant browsing within its Paris quality (and pricey) shops. However, some visitors will prefer to join the 'locals' in the stores and small shops to be found in the smaller streets behind the town hall. Le Havre has several interesting museums, but the Musée des Beaux Arts is particularly notable. Of glass and metal construction, this modern building contains imaginative presentations of outstanding paintings by Dufy and Boudin.