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Haussmann and New Paris

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The Bourgeoisification of Paris culminated in Baron Haussmann's renovation of the city.

Between the Revolution of 1789 and Haussmann's renovation in the 1860's, ideals changed from those of a politically motivated city to those of an economically and socially centered city. Modern technology such as railroads and gas lamps were conveniences which the rising bourgeoisie could enjoy in their leisurely lifestyle. New spaces that were created during the renovation encouraged the bourgeoisie to flaunt their new wealth, creating a booming economy. All of these examples of the changes occurring in Paris during this time period can be seen in representations of the city.

There are two views of Baron Haussmann: One depicts him as the man who destroyed Old Paris, and the other as the man who created New Paris.

Baron Georges Eugene Haussmann (1809-1892) was appointed by Napoleon III on June 22, 1853 to "modernize" Paris. In this way, Napoleon III hoped to better control the flow of traffic, encourage economic growth, and make the city "revolution-proof" by making it harder to build barricades. Haussmann accomplished all this by tearing up many of the old, twisting streets and dilapidated apartment houses, and replacing them with the wide, tree-lined boulevards and expansive gardens which Paris is famous for today.


(Click on the image to see a larger version)
This is a diagram of the Rue Saint-Denis, as renovated by Haussmann. Notice that the new street is significantly wider than any existing streets, and is designed to pass directly through many existing buildings. The Rue Saint-Denis, unlike the existing streets, is also very straight. Napoleon III hoped this would discourage rioters, who were in the habit of setting up barricades in the warren-like streets.

Haussmann the Hero:

"How ugly Paris seems after a year's absence. How one chokes in these dark, narrow and dank corridors that we like to call the streets of Paris! One would think that one was in a subterranean city, that's how heavy is the atmosphere , how profound is the darkness!" -the Vicomte de Launay, 1838,(as quoted in Rice, p 9)

Historian Shelley Rice, in her book "Parisian Views" asserts that "most Parisians during [the first half of the nineteenth century] perceived [the streets] as dirty, crowded, and unhealthy . . . Covered with mud and makeshift shanties, damp and fetid, filled with the signs of poverty as well as the signs of garbage and waste left there by the inadequate and faulty sewer system . . ."" (p 9). For these people, Haussmann was performing a much needed service to the city.

The image above was taken by Charles Marville for Baron Haussmann's City Council Permanent Subcommittee on Historic Works. The purpose of this committee was to record Old Paris for the city archives, as well as to survey the city and mark areas to be renovated. The street in the photograph is the Rue Estienne. It is narrow, damp, and dirty. There are no sidewalks, which would have discouraged potential customers from frequenting the shops which line the street on either side. In the background, one can see more refuse, which has made the street impassible. Haussmann destroyed streets like this one, in favor of wider, and better ventilated streets which would encourage upper bourgeois strolling.

Haussmann the Destroyer of Paris:

Because of Haussmannization, the 1860's was a time of intense upheaval in Paris. Many Parisians were troubled by the destruction of old roots. Historian Robert Herbert asserts that the impressionist movement depicted this loss of connection in such paintings as Manet's "Bar at Folies," 1882. The subject of the painting is talking to a man, seen in the mirror behind her, but seems unengaged. According to Herbert, this is a symptom of living in Paris at this time: the citizens became detached from one another The continuous destruction of physical Paris led to a destruction of social Paris as well. Haussmann was also criticized for the immense cost of his project. Napoleon III fired Haussmann on January 5, 1870, in order to increase the approval ratings of the regime.


"Bar at Folies", Manet, 1881-82

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