Baron Haussmann

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  • Topic: Paris, Rive Gauche, Seine
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Baron Haussmann

Born on March 27, 1809 from a Protestant family with origins from Germany, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann was a French civic planner who is known for the rebuilding, hero, and destroyer of Paris, France. He gained much of his education from the College Henry IV. From College Henry IV he studied law while simultaneously attending classes at the Paris conservatoire of music. In 1830 Haussmann became what was known as the sous-prefet of Nerac and in 1853 Haussmann was chosen by Persigny for he would be prefect of the Seine Department, which was a department of France surrounding Paris and its suburbs. Many of Baron Haussmann's works gave him a certain reputation as mainly a hero of Paris. Although many may have seen him as a hero, there were those that saw him as a destroyer of Paris because his work in rebuilding the city and destroying the social fabric of the city.

During the period between the Revolution of 1789 and Haussmann's rebuilding of Paris in the 1860's, many ideals in Paris were changed. The ideals of the city of Paris have changed from a politically motivated city to a city that is economically and socially centered. The rise in modern technology such as railroads and gas lamps were considered conveniences in which the rising bourgeoisie could enjoy their leisurely lifestyle. The new spaces created from the rebuilding in Paris encouraged many of the bourgeoisie to show off their new wealth. Because of the rising new wealth, there was a boost in Paris' economy.

Baron Haussmann was appointed by Napoleon III in 1853 in order to modernize the city of Paris. Napoleon's main objective or goal was to better control the traffic flow and to encourage economic development in the city of Paris. Another objective by Napoleon was to rebuild the city in a way to prevent revolutions or to make it "revolution proof" which would be done by making it harder to build barricades. By appointing Haussmann, Napoleon III would accomplish all that is demanded by his regime. Haussmann accomplished the rebuilding of Paris by tearing up many of the old, twisting streets and decaying apartment houses. They were replaced with wide tree-lined boulevards and expansive gardens. These attributes are what Paris is famous for today. The rebuilding brought up many concerns over the social fabric and physical fabric of the city of Paris. Although Haussmann rebuilt the city of Paris, the city was a little different before the renovation.

Paris before the renovation by Haussmann during the 19th century was a city of contrasts. Monuments, significant historic buildings, and slum dwellings were often adjacent to each other because of the many centuries of haphazard development. The city was also densely populated as a result from immigration from the provinces. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, author of Les Confessions, writes the following about his first impressions of Paris, "Entering through the faubourg Saint Marceau, I saw only small, dirty and stinking streets, ugly black houses, an air of filth, poverty, beggars, carters, sewing women, women hawking tisanes and old hat" (Rousseau).

The quote by Rousseau clearly indicates how the city of Paris was in the 19th century before the renovation of Paris by Haussmann. Many of the city's districts contained old tenements, which were five to six stories in height. Only one household out of five had running water and chamber pots were emptied into the streets from the windows. Two-thirds of the streets contained open sewers. These had been built over centuries in a gradual fashion. Part of the city's water supply came from the Seine, often downstream from the orifice of sewers, which emptied their contents into the river. The cramped, unhealthy conditions brought up disease. Cholera, moving westward from Asia, arrived in Europe in the early 19th century. In 1832, 39,000 Parisians contracted cholera and 18,400 of those people died, including the Prime Minister. A similar number...
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