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A street map of Paris dated 1870
Le Paris de Napoleon III. Lanee, Editeur-Geographie. 1870. Geography and Map Division.

Exploring Haussmannian Paris

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During the 19th century Paris underwent a major urban renewal. I am focusing on some of the maps that were published before, during, and after the renovation of Paris.

Before the renovation, the residents of central Paris suffered from cholera epidemics, overcrowding and a high infant mortality rate. The Bievre River, which flowed into the Seine, was contaminated with waste from tanneries and butcher shops. The streets of Paris had not been updated since the Middle Ages and were too narrow for traffic circulation. Central Paris was a place of civic unrest. During the revolutions of 1848 the residents rioted against King Louis Philippe and barricaded the narrow streets with furniture, overturned carriages, and stones.

Plans to renovate Paris began as early as the 18th century; however, major improvements were not made until the reign of Napoleon III.

Napoleon III (also know as Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte) was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Louise-Napoleon was elected as the first president of France in 1848. He was unable to seek reelection due to changes in the French constitution. Louis-Napoleon organized a coup d’état and proclaimed himself Emperor in 1851. Napoleon III served as the Emperor of France from 1851 to 1870.

The map below shows 19th century Paris as it existed before the renovation.

A street map of Paris dated from 1823.
Plan routier de la ville de Paris et des ses faubourgs, divisé en 12 arrondts.Chez Ledoyen. 1823. Geography and Map Division.

Napoleon III was impressed with the wide streets and public parks of London. He was determined to improve the quality of life for the residents of Paris by widening the streets and building public parks, reservoirs, and aqueducts. He appointed Georges Haussmann, a French administrator, as the prefect of Seine in 1853. As the prefect of Seine, Haussmann was responsible for the renovation of Paris.

The Paris Universal Exposition (World’s Fair) was scheduled to open on May 15th, 1855. In 1853 Napoleon III provided Haussmann with a color-coded map of Paris. Georges Haussmann’s first project was to create a grand cross in the center of Paris  with the streets Rivoli and Saint-Antoine running east to west and the boulevards Strasbourg and Sebastopol running north to south. The project was to be finished before the opening of the Paris Universal Exposition. Haussmann completed the project on time, and the Grand Hotel du Louvre was built for guests of the exposition.

The map below was published in 1855, the year of the Paris Universal Exposition.

A map of Paris dated 1955.
Nouveau Plan de Paris. L. Hachette. 1855. Geography and Map Division.

The next Paris Universal Exposition opened in 1867, in the midst of Haussmann’s renovation. Below is a plan of the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition.

A plan of the Paris World's Fair that took place in 1867.
Plan général du palais et du parc de l’Exposition universelle de 1867. Frezouls, architect, Bousquel, Civil Engineer. 1867, Geography and Map Division.

New streets were built and many older streets and buildings were demolished. From 1859 to 1867 several streets were added to the right bank; these included the boulevard Prince Eugene, the boulevard de Magenta, and the rue Turbigo. Several new streets were added to the left bank, including the avenue Bosquet, the avenue Rapp, and the boulevard Arago. Old theaters were destroyed on the boulevard du Temple to make way for the square named Place de la République. The boulevard du Temple was nicknamed the boulevard du Crime because crime melodramas were shown in the theaters on a daily basis.

Theaters, churches, new railway stations, fountains, and kiosks were built during Haussmann’s renovation. Apartment buildings were built with a uniform façade. The buildings have the same height, stone material, beige color, and wrought iron balconies; today they are known as Haussmannian buildings. Featured below is a stereograph of the rue de Rivoli after Haussmann’s renovation.

A photograph of the Rue Rivoli in Paris.
Rue de Rivoli, Paris. Alfred S. Campbell. 1897. Prints and Photographs Division.

The map below was published for tourists in 1878. The map shows the widened streets and boulevards that were constructed during the transformation of Paris.

A map showing the monuments in Paris, dated 1878.
Nouveau Paris monumental : itinéraire pratique de l’étranger dans Paris. F. Dufour. 1878. Geography and Map Division.

The Bois de Boulogne, mapped below, was one of the parks built during Haussmann’s renovation. The park was built on a former royal hunting ground. The building of the Bois de Boulogne took several years to complete.

A map of the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris.
Bois de Boulogne et Environs. L. Guilman. 1924. Geography and Map Division.

Haussmann was dismissed as the prefect of Seine in 1870, and the French engineer Jean-Charles Alphand succeeded him. Alphand continued many of Haussmann’s renovation projects after his dismissal. A street named boulevard Haussmann was completed in 1927, thirty-six years after Georges Haussmann’s death.

Most Parisians were satisfied with the changes that Haussmann made to their city; however, he also received criticism. Critics believed that he destroyed old Paris because many buildings and old narrow streets were demolished during the renovation.

I recently visited Paris and was impressed by the wide boulevards, theaters, parks, churches, and uniform Haussmannian apartments that were built during Georges Haussmann’s renovation; in my opinion he helped to make Paris the magnificant city that it is today.

Learn More about the transformation of Paris:

Comments (2)

  1. great blog, very informative. Thanks

  2. These maps and the synopsis are helpful in my preparation for an upcoming visit to Paris in March 2023. I am going to print a few up so I can study them in more detail. Thanks!

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