• LOCATION 5 | The Chairfather: Père Lachaise Part III

    Haussmann

    On your right is an exclusive above-ground single-family stone dwelling with a pitched roof and high ceiling.

    [3 SECOND PAUSE]

    More than anyone else, Baron Haussmann is the architect of modern Paris. Before him, much of the medieval footprint of the city still existed: crooked skinny streets, dilapidated buildings shadowing murky corners where thievery and sickness collected, fostering epidemics and seven armed uprisings in the previous two decades. In the dense 3rd arrondissement, there was one person for every 3m2.

    Given carte blanche by the Emperor, Haussmann levelled 20 000 structures, and made 40 000. More than half of Paris' buildings standing today did so on his orders. He replaced zigzags with the favorite French shape: the straight line.

    He doubled the average width of roads, and paved wide thoroughfares like the avenue de l'Opéra, boulevard Saint-Germain, and extended the rue de Rivoli. Of the 12 roads which converge on the Arc de Triomphe, nine were re-done by Haussmann. Identical rows of apartment buildings rose, constructed of massive cut stone blocks, all exactly five stories tall with wrought-iron balconies. The roofs were all pitched at 45-degrees, and structures were set back to ensure ample sidewalks received direct sunlight.

    Outside the city limits, 11 neighborhoods were absorbed into Paris, doubling the street plan, establishing the final 8 arrondissements of 20. Overnight, the population of the city doubled, growing in his 17-year construction spree to 2M inhabitants, matching today's figure.

    The new Parisians enjoyed a brighter city, with gaslight points tripling in the first decade of the buildout. The Opéra Garnier alone installed more than 15000 orange flickers, and Paris earned the nickname 'The City of Light.'

    Many dwellers were displaced, but no sentimentalist, the Baron tore down his own birthplace without a second thought, and paved the Boulevard Haussmann over it.

    We could go on and on, as I haven't even mentioned the sewer makeover, two new train stations, a couple theaters and a half million trees planted. We'll save the greenery in four more tombs, when we meet the landscape artist who created Paris' most bucolic parks. For now, remind yourself at your next sidewalk café sitting, enjoying ample elbow room, direct sunlight and stunning façades, to raise your cup to Haussmann.

    Our next neighbor lives 4 doors down on the right.

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The Chairfather: Père Lachaise Part III