In the period from 1853-1870 Paris turned a corner and emerged
from being an overgrown mediaeval city to become a modern capital.
Only in the last twenty years have there been any major modifications
to the broad lines laid down by Haussmann.
Life of Haussmann
It was under Napoleon that Georges Haussmann was born on March
27, 1809, in a small house entre cour et jardin in the rue Faubourg
le Roule, a house that he had demolished when he was Prefect
of the Seine to make room for the boulevard that bears his name.
Haussmann’s parents were financially comfortable but not
wealthy. Both were protestant, a fact of considerable social
importance then as now in France. His father, Nicolas Valentin
Haussmann, came from an Alsatian family of textile merchants.
His grandfather, also Nicolas, was born in 1760 and had set up
a textile printing works near Colmar which, with the chemical
knowledge of Nicolas’ elder brother Jean-Michel, had been
a pioneer in that field. At the Exposition in 1819 the Haussmann’s
won a gold medal for having been the first to apply lithographic
printing to textriles. Both father and grandfather were men of
no uncertain character or political conviction Georges Haussmann
grew up in close contact with both of them, and the fact that
he consciously inherited their experience throws some light on
his ways of thinking and acting in later life.
The Transformation of Paris 1858-1870
practically the whole of the first reseau, the intial programme
works, was completed. All subsequent works
were classified into a second and a third reseau, but they were
not divided into two naturally homogeneous groups. Taken together
the works had a logical unity. They were classified into two
groups because Haussmann knew in 1858 that the ministers and
parliament would never agree that the entire network was ‘in
the public interest’. When, therefore, Haussmann discussed
with the Ministers of Public Works and Finance a treaty between
the state and the City of Paris, whereby the state world make
some financial contribution to his public works, he could persuade
them to include in the treaty only the remaining parts of the
Emperor’s a plans and a few other roads, for instance round
the Opera, which he slipped in with the rest. The works covered
by the treaty constituted what was known as the second reseau.
The rest of his schemes Haussmann kept back; to be carried out as he found
the means. These constituted the third reseau. Since the suburban communes
were not annexed until the year after the treaty was signed, all work in these
communes was necessarily classified under this reseau.
and second reseaux, therefore, were based on Louis Napoleon’s plans, and were executed with the financial
participation of the state. Most of the work of the third reseau
was complementary to the second, and was carried out concurrently.
The methods Haussmann used were debateable, and when discovered
raised a storm of opposition which eventually drove him form
office. But the whole financial aspect of the transformation
of Paris was so complicated and bound up with the decline of
the Second Empire and with Haussmann’s fall that it has
been reserved for a separate chapter.
cost of the second reseau was 180 million francs. On March
the treaty was signed between the government
and the municipality whereby the state agreed to contribute one-third
of the cost. The Ministers of Public Works and Finance signed
it for the state and by the Prefect of the Seine, subject to
the approval of the Minister of the Interior, for Paris. The
work was to be executed within two years, and annual financial
statements submitted to a special committee of experts. The Corps
Legislatif modified the original proposal, and, fearful of Haussmann’s
extravagance, stipulated a maximum state contribution of 50 million
presented the treaty to the municipal council for approval
a nice specimen of municipal oratory. ‘Today,’ he
told them, ‘you stand between two major, clearly marked
financial periods; the first of which ran from 1852 to 1858,
the second starting in 1859….’ He talked of ‘the
urgent needs which you are in a better position that anyone else
to understand….’ Moreover, ‘no one is less
disposed foolish extravagance….’ He flattered their ‘prudent
foresight’ is seeing how the population of Paris would
continue to grow with the railways. In fact he congratulated
them on the way they had learnt the lessons he had been repeating
to them for six years.
The treaty became law on May 28, 1858, and the way was open
for the next stage in the transformation of Paris.
By 1858 the first reseau had already modified the Paris of 1853. The rue de
Rivoli now extended in the east as far as the Hotel de Ville. The north-south
route was complete except for a short link across the Ile de la Cite to join
the boulevard St Michel with the boulevard de Sebastopol. Haussmann planned
to build this link, and also to continue the rue de Rivoli to join the rue
St Antoine to the east. This completed the world-famous highway which runs
right across Paris form Neuilly in the west by way of the Etoile, the Champs
Elysees, the place de la Concorde, rue de Rivioli, the Bastille, to Vincennes
in the east.
task was to open up the new gateways of the city, the railway
The boulevard de Sebastopol already served the
gare de l’Est, and after 1864 the agree du Nord. But to
open up these two stations on all sides Haussmann extended the
rue de La Fayette south-west from the stations to the business
centre, and built the boulevard Magenta south-east towards the
gare de Lyon, the terminus for the south. From the gare de Lyon
to the dock and warehouse area of Bercy he constructed the avenue
Daumesnil, which also became the main road to the Bois de Vincennes.
The gare St Lazare, for the northwest of France, he linked to
the centre of Paris by the rue Auber, and opened up the approaches
to the gare de l’Ouest (Montparnasse) by the rue de Rennes.
Two more things remained to be done: to join the new suburbs
with the city itself, and to provide a circular route running
round the north and south of the city.
The rapidly growing industrial areas in the suburban communes
he linked to the centre by radial highways. The boulevard Malesherbes
opened up Batignolles in the north-west; the boulevards Barbes
and Ornano served Montmartre and Clignancourt in the north; the
rue de La Fayette Brought the main artery from La Villette in
the north-east right into the centre of Paris.
It was also
important the people and goods should be able to cross Paris
striking into the crowded centre each time,
and the inner ring of boulevards was no longer adequate, especially
in the south. In the second reseau Haussmann therefore started
the boulevard St Germain, parallel with the rue des Ecoles which
had been Louis Napoleon’s original inadequate idea for
a boulevard on the left bank, and completed the southern outer
ring by the boulevards St Marcel and Port-Royal, which joined
the boulevard St Michel south of the university. The line of
the inner boulevard du Prince Eugene (Voltaire) and the boulevard
Richard Lenoir, and to the west by the boulevard Haussmann, the
boulevard Malesherbes, and the avenue Friedland which linked
the inner boulevards with the place de l’Etoile.
on his plan Haussmann was faced with seven roads, unevenly
and of unequal importance. He had plenty of space,
for beyond the Arc de Triomphe, and even between it and the city,
there was as yet no systematic building. Batignolles, the nearest
built-up area, lay to the north and the extended village of Passy
far t the south. Haussmann therefore opened two new roads in
the right angle between the avenue Kleber and the Champs Elysees;
these were the avenue d’Iena and avenue Josephine (Marceau);
and it was this whole section which Joseph Thome developed during
the period 1864-7. Balancing these on the other side of the circle
he cut the avenue Prince Jerome and avenue Essling (Mac-Mahon
and Carnot). Finally, to complete the symmetry, he put the avenue
de la Reine Hortense (Hoche) between the avenue Wagram and the
touch was a circular road (rue de Tilsitt-Presbourg) round
of the houses overlooking the place de l’Etoile.
This was intended to free the place ifself from the carriages
which might be expected to call on the wealthy tenants likely
to live there. A uniform design was imposed on the houses which
surrounded the place, with a small garden and frille at the back
giving on to this circular road. Haussmann baldly remarks that
this design by on e of his architects, Hittorff, was so bad that
he had to mask the fronts with trees; but at least in ensure
the uniformity without which half the effect of the street planning
would have been lost.
Haussmann imposed a pattern on Paris, which has dominated all
future development. This has continued to be based on the great
transurban routes, the radial roads to the suburbs, the strategic
nodal points, and the circular boulevards. The pattern was by
no means obvious to all his contemporaries. M. Lock, in the Temps
in 1867, lamented the time when roads were built to serve the
intimate and daily needs of the inhabitants of the town, and
not as exercises in town planning.
‘One cannot grasp the intention and scope of the plan....
One sees only long straight lines striking out at random, illustrating
all possible variations of the triangle and quadrangle, except
perhaps the regular forms of these geometrical figures.’ He
thought the respectable areas on the Right Bank had suffered
more damage than the left bank and he suspected, as many future
critics were to do that the main concern of the planners was
public security. ‘If it was not a plot directed against
the Parisians themselves, one must suppose that Paris planning
has for fifteen years been given over to geometricians, who have
amused themselves drawing lines indiscriminately from one point