The Orphaned Europe Quartier

photo: rue de madrid, view to place de l'europe

Looking down the Rue de Madrid towards the
Place de l'Europe.

Sub-Divided By Rails

Paris:- Saturday, 28. October 2000:- Flipping through the thick brochure for 'Paris en 80 Quartiers' reveals a hint of an exhibition of astonishing complexity. Here, I should point out that I haven't actually seen any of it yet.

The past, present and future are represented by images. This means images from archives, images made recently by students, images produced by Web-cams, video images and images taken from satellites. These last have been used for aerial photos and they have been also rendered to produce a 3D views of Paris.

In the exhibition's brochure alone, some of these images are arresting. For example, the quartier called 'Europe' is shown as a high-definition look-down from near outer space - showing the Place de l'Europe as a crossroads above the rail lines leading into the Gare Saint-Lazare.

This has made me think about living in this quartier. There is, of course, no 'life' above the rails - so it has to be beyond them, mostly in the 8th arrondissement and sideswiping the edge of the 9th.

This 'Europe' quartier also includes the Gare Saint-Lazare, because its two main axis, the Rue de Rome and the Rue d'Amsterdam, beginphoto: from metro rome, st lazare rails at the Rue Saint-Lazare on either side of the front of the station. From here they rise upwards to the Rue des Batignolles and the Place de Clichy.

Here is what wrecked a nice little Paris sub-division 160 years ago - the rails.

As the brochure says, within this area Parisians take their kids to school, go to the post office, have their apéros in the neighborhood cafés, do their local shopping, go to church, get married - but a quick look through some of my old and newer guide books reveals that this 'Europe' quartier boasts no sights of any interest whatsoever to any potential visitor.

Officially, the 8th arrondissement's interest stops at the 'Monceau plain' to the west and the eastern area closest to Gare Saint-Lazare. From the rear of the station, to the northwest, in all the streets with European city names, there are no cited cafés, monuments, museums or hotels.

The one exception is a restaurant called the Singe d'Eau in the Rue de Moscou, which is oriented towards Tibetan specialties. The authentic decor matches the food and it is not expensive; but it is closed on Sundays.

'Europe' In the Past

There are two 'pasts' here; Europe's and mine. Ten years ago I started spending a lot of time 'in Europe' behind Saint-Lazare because it had a photo lab I used, and there was a bookshop with imported books about computing.

The photo lab was just off the Rue d'Amsterdam near métro Liège, and the bookshop was beyond the Place de Dublin in the Rue de Moscou. Usually I went to both from Saint-Lazare, but occasionally I'd start at the top, at métro Rome. At another time a reader asked about some sheet music, and I found a number of shops in the Rue de Rome for this.

Now I'll skip to Europe's past - because it does have one, even if it is overshadowed by the arrondissement'sphoto: shops, luthier, droguerie vastly more famous and celebrated Champs-Elysées, Concorde, the Madeleine, Monceau and George V areas.

On one of the 'city' streets - a maker of stringed instruments next door to a 'droguerie,' selling mops and brooms.

Before 1826, Europe's east side was occupied by the Folie-Boutin, which later became the Tivoli, a 'jardin des attractions.' In its second incarnation, it was the first in Paris to have a ballroom lit by gas-lamps, but was poorly managed and went bust in 1830 and again in 1833, and for all eternity in 1841.

At about the same time - in February, 1826 - Jonas Hagermann and Sylvain Mignon, obtained a permit to subdivide what is now the Europe quartier, with the idea of a series of streets radiating out from a centre at the Place de l'Europe. In all, 24 streets were opened between 1826 and 1843.

What the two promoters didn't count on was the train station for the Paris-Le Pecq-Versailles rail line, which was originally planned to be near the Place de la Concorde, then near the Madeleine. There was so much opposition to these locations that the Place de l'Europe was chosen, and then in 1841, it moved again to its present location.

Jonas Hagermann and Sylvain Mignon must have been opposed to this, but since the Gare Saint-Lazare is neither at Concorde nor Madeleine, it seems as if they were outvoted.

This caused the Place de l'Europe to be built as a bridge out of iron and steel over the tracks, in 1866, by the same outfit which constructed the arrondissement's Mairie. The station was rebuilt again from 1885 to 1889, so that its main part looks about as it does today.

'Europe' In the Present, Partly

Since there is a bit of a hill to this, I start at the top, from métro Rome, and begin with the west side by walking into the wind down the Rue de Rome which was opened in 1859, after the tracks were put in.

The block-square Lycée Chaptal, right on the corner of the Rue de Rome and the Boulevard des Batignolles, wasphoto: metro europe entry built from 1866 to 1876 and it is a wicked hodge-podge of gables, chimneys and towers, made with brick, stone, tiles, iron and reliefs with names like 'Athéna.'

Near the Place de l'Europe, just off the Rue de Rome, the métro followed the rails by 60 years.

I take a right turn into the short Rue de Copenhague, which was opened in 1868. This is followed by the more substantial Rue de Naples, which was partly opened in 1826 with the name of Hambourg, but this doesn't explain the small size of its street signs. Guillaume Apollinaire lived in this street for a time.

The Rue de Constantinople slashes across Rue de Rome diagonally, going down to the Place de l'Europe; from where it continues as the Rue de Londres. Without the huge ditch full of rails, how would this have looked?

In the Rue de Rome, on both sides, and on all these side streets, there are many shops where stringed instruments are made, repaired; bought and sold. Near the Rue de Madrid, there are also shops with wind instruments and others with sheet music. This is Paris' non-electronic music centre.

The Conservatoire National de Musique was located at 14. Rue de Madrid until recently. It had been installed here in 1911, in the former Petit Collège Saint-Ignace, founded in 1874, across the street from the Grand Collége Saint-Ignace.

The Conservatoire has moved to Cité de la Musique at La Villette with its museum. This may change the neighborhood - but now the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris has taken up residence at the same address, and I hear a saxophone playing in the Rue de Madrid.

The Rue de Madrid was on the drawing boards in 1826, but only opened in 1867 when part of Rue Lisbonne was attached, which nearly goes all the way to the Parc de Monceau. Why part of the same street switched names is unknown.

The odd Rue du Rocher crosses the Rue de Madrid on an iron bridge, about two floors up. This is part of old road that was called the Rue de la Petit-Pologne at end of 16th century.

It twisted past several moulins - windmills - and was probablyphoto: sign, place le l'europe named after an auberge sign, 'Au Roi de Pologne,' which was an allusion to the Duc d'Anjou, King of Poland and future Henri III, who owned the area of the Cour de Rome.

Under Louis XV the Rue de la Petit-Pologne was straightened out. At number 30, Rue du Rocher, was a hôtel owned by Lucien Bonaparte. In 1823 the painter Pierre Prud'hon died at number 32. In the same street, at numbers two and four, there is a small house where Casanova lived in 1759.

Number 64 is the home of the Théâtre Tristan-Bernard, the ex-theatre of Charles de Rochefort, who died in 1952. The Rochefort history includes a Hollywood stint and the current theatre features well-known French actors.

On this western side, the last street is the short Rue de Stockholm which opened in 1831; before St-Lazare moved south from the Place de l'Europe and cut it off from the Rue d'Amsterdam. Eight years later the Saint-Lazare station was extended to the Rue de Rome from the Amsterdam side.

This is where I cross to the eastern side through the Place de l'Europe, which is not a 'place' at all, but a round-about above the train tracks - where three formerly whole streets intersect, creating six half-streets.

Before Saint-Lazare moved for the last time, the station called L'Imbarcadère de la Ligne Saint-Germain-en-Laye was here.

One of these eastern streets is the Rue de Saint-Pétersbourg which was also opened in 1826. It was renamed Pétrograd in 1914, renamed again as Leningrad in 1945 and now it is back to its original name again. I think the French taught the Russians how to do this.

The painter Edouard Manet died in 1883 at the age of 51 at number 39 in this street, after having lived at number four until 1878 and then at number 77 in the Rue d'Amsterdam in 1877.

The Place de Dublin is another important crossroads of six streets, where the Rue de Moscou goes through from Rue d'Amsterdam up to the Boulevard des Batignolles. Its opening started in 1840 and was completed in 1867. I don't see any signs of its reputed 'pulpeuses' nymphs though.

Beginning from the same place is the Rue de Bucarest which opened in 1826 as the Rue de Hambourg. In the original plan, this ex-Rue de Hambourg reached across to the Rue de Naples on the western side - so there are now two widely separated streets that have the same ex-name.

The Rue de Liége, opened in 1826, begins at the Place de l'Europe and extends the Rue de Madrid on the west side. It is the ex-Rue de Berlin, renamed in 1914. Number 24 is a gothic-appearing house built by Viollet-le-Duc in 1846 for Henri Courmont.

The corner where Rue de Moscou and Rue de Liège meet the Rue d'Amsterdam looks a bit like this sub-quartier is having a down period. A lot of traffic is always coming down Amsterdam from the Place de Clichy, so it is not relaxing and its shopping activity seems to be in decline.

Just before getting to Saint-Lazare the Rue de Londres slants in from the Place de l'Europe, which was in the 1826 plan. It passed through the original placement of the Folie-Boutin and later, Tivoli, and was opened up from 1836 to 1843.

In 1837, Hector Berlioz lived at number 34 with his first wife. The construction work was so noisy, he workedphoto: shop, la guitarreria up under mansard. If this caused the marriage fall apart is unknown, but Berlioz moved with his mistress to the Rue de Provence and his wife, to the Rue Blanche.

The Rue d'Amsterdam was also named in 1826 and lengthened to reach the Rue Saint-Lazare in 1843, to match the station's new location. The furnished Hotel de Dieppe is in it, where Baudelaire translated Edgar Allen Poe in 1860. Alexandre Dumas, the elder, lived at number 72 in 1843.

Specialties of the 'western' Europe - guitars and brasses, plus sheet music shops.

Although 'Europe' is one of Paris' '80 Quartiers,' it is this in name only - as in street names. What probably began as a reasonably well laid-out urban plan was destroyed shortly after its inception by the new mania for railroads.

However, this may change. There is rapidly increasing commerce near the Gare Saint-Lazare, which is being helped by the new RER line coming in from Paris' northeast. Late this afternoon, it seems as if the whole world is milling around the Place du Harve.

Sooner or later the SNCF is going to decide that its air-space over the rails could be valuable real-estate. If this ever happens, there will be a chance to reunite the two orphaned halves of 'Europe.'

This leaves the coming exhibition to find out how 'Europe' has been treated. It should be featured along with the rest of the 8th arrondissement's many treasures, from Tuesday, 28. November until Wednesday, 20. December.

This will take place in the Mairie - the arrondissement's city hall - which is at 3. Rue de Lisbonne, with the nearest métro being the Europe stop.

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