Paris of 1865

Boulevard Michel, Paris

The Haussmannization of Paris (or who made Paris like that?)

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 Haussmann

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.

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.

Medieval to Modern

Yet, 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. Symptoms 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.

His work had destroyed much of the medieval city.

It is estimated that he transformed 60% of Paris’ buildings.

Notably, he redesigned the Place de l’Etoile, and created long avenues giving perspectives on monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Opera Garnier.

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