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The Changing Streets of Paris: Pavement

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"In less than an hour twenty-seven barricades rose from the ground in the single quartier of the markets...The narrow, uneven, sinuous streets full of turns and corners, were admirably chosen; the environs of the markets in particular, a network of streets more intricate than a forest." (Hugo 922)

The above image is a daguerreotype taken by M.Thibault in 1848, entitled "Barricades avant l'attaque, Rue Saint-Maur" ("Barricades Before the Attack, Rue Saint-Maur"). It depicts a familiar scene of the time: the old streets of Paris obstructed by barricades. If you click on the image, you will see a close up of these barricades and the materials from which they are constructed. Also evident in this daguerreotype is the overall condition of the streets: narrow and cramped, dirty and run down. Haussmann's post-revolutionary changes completely transformed the streets into clean and spacious avenues. The quote (to the right of the image) from Les Miserables describes the condition of the streets.

Prior to Revolutionary times, the winding streets of Paris were paved with cobblestones. During the Revolution, citizens used the cobblestones to construct barricades and as weapons. When Haussmann was restructuring the city of Paris, he used modern pavement to cover the cobblestones, making it that much harder for the citizens to retaliate against the government. He also widened and straightened them to lessen the likelihood and ease of an uprising. For more on this, click here.

"The barricade Saint Antoine was monstrous; it was three stories high and seven hundred feet long. It barred from one corner to the other the vast mouth of the Faubourg, that is to say, three streets; ravined, jagged, notched, abrupt, indented with an immense rent, buttressed with mounds which were themselves bastions, pushing out capes here and there, strongly supported by the two great promontories of houses of the Faubourg, it rose like a cyclopean embankment at the foot of the terrible square which saw the 14th of July." (Hugo 1014) [For more of this quote click here]


This is an excerpt of a song written about the battles being fought among the streets of Revolutionary France:

"From the ashes call the colors
Blending gently in one another
Pavement flies torn up by bare hands
To the other side where it all lands
It's just another ugly Sunday behind barricades
. "

Thus, the streets of Paris before Haussmann were authentic and romantic, but when the ideals and overall image of Paris changed, it was time for the streets to change. These renovations allowed the bourgeoisie to stroll, shop, and socialize on the new spacious streets.

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