Bastille and Saint-Antoine neighborhood

The Faubourg Saint-Antoine is nowadays more commonly called La Bastille since most all of the craftsmen – cabinet makers, gilders, mirror manufacturers – and metal workers have now been replaced by designers, architects, consultants working in the old yards and passages.
Even avoiding too much backward looking, there is some nostalgia floating above some yards still with old workshops, sign boards and a factory chimney. They appear like some ghosts of a furniture industry there from medieval times up to the end of the 20th century.
this nostalgia is compensated by a stimulating new generation of designers, software engineers and architects working in the renovated workshops. Walking in the quiet green yards and passages isolated from the traffic, is also very nice. There are also many cafés and restaurants for a cosy break.

The stroll starts rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and includes a stop at  the living Aligre market.
There are streets where revolutions took place in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1870; There are yards and passages with old and evocative names like Main d'Or (Golden hand), la Bonne Graine (the good seed);
Rue de Lappe, in the last half century the neighborhood of people coming from Auvergne, French Central region, and today an area to drink and dance. The stroll ends Place de la Bastille. 

Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine

The old narrow street goes from La Bastille to La Nation. Haussmann decided to divide in two arrondissements: the 11th on the odd-numbered side of the street which has many cobbled courtyards and passages and the 12th on the other side.

Going out of the metro, there is on the right side the Saint-Antoine hospital. It was built where was in the past the Abbey of Saint-Antoine des Champs created in the 12th century. It became much important when King Saint-Louis in the 13th century as it became a Royal Abbey. In the 15th century, it was authorized by king Louis XI to become a free labour area, meaning that craftsmen could be employed by the convent. It brought a lot of changes for the carpenters who were then able to work very close to the Parisian port where the wood was directly delivered in Paris (Port de la Râpée). More importantly, they could work free of constraining rules imposed by their corporations, and could master new techniques and expertise like wood marquetry.

Fontaine of la Petite Halle, Louis XV
184, faubourg Saint-Antoine
1900/1901 – Atget

The fountain of la Petite Halle was inaugurated in 1719 for the use of a butcher shop owned by the abbey. The nuns had then the monopoly of meat sale in all the faubourg. The former butcher shop that still can be seen on Atget's photo was destroyed in 1940.

Carrefour rue Faubourg Saint-Antoine et rue de Montreuil

Not far from the angle of rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and rue de Montreuil, was the Reveillon wall paper manufacture implemented in 1765. The first hot air balloons were assembled by the manufacture from where flew Pilâtre de Rozierf in 1783.
Though Réveillon applied rather progressive actions like unemployment compensations for his employees, a riot broke out in April 1789, as a prior sign of the coming Bastille Day. This riot was initiated by a decision made by Reveillon to reduce wages as he made a proposal to theGovernment to cancel taxes for all the goods entering in Paris. Cancel of taxes was not heard, what was heard was the salaries reduction. There was a big riot, the manufacture was destroyed, and the revolt expanded to all the district. Many people were killed and wounded during the harsh repression.

Faubourg Saint-Antoine

From rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine,turn onto rue d'Aligre up to reach the market Place d'Aligre.

Baudelaire's ghost is floating where a near street has his name ...

Paris may change; my melancholy is fixed.
New palaces, and scaffoldings, and blocks,
And suburbs old, are symbols all to me
Whose memories are as heavy as a stone.

The Swan – Parisian scenes – The flowers of Evil (1859) Baudelaire

Place d'Aligre

If you want to enjoy the market and its small flea market, better to come here in the morning 'except on Mondays).
The flea market was created by the Abbess, so that the poor from the neighborhood could buy clothes at low price.

There were many riots in this neighborhood, the most famous one being Bastille Day. Haussmann will remember them when he decided to divide the district in two different arrondissements for a better control. This neighborhood with many narrow streets and passages was facilitating barricades and entranchment.
Today, there are very few remnants of this past; However you will notice the associative café of the Aligre free community at 3, placed'Aligre, as an active witness of the solidarity spirit that has always characterised this neighborhood.

In Atget's time, there was an other cafe chosen for its old wrought iron sign board. The pretty bunch of grapes within the door frame and the gates are gone. Only the name of the café La Grille (Gate) is a very small reminder of the pretty gate – la Grille (the gate). 

A la Grappe d'Or,
4 Place d'Aligre.
Atget - 1911

Let's come back rue d'Aligre, then rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine and on the left rue de la Forge Royale. Let's proceed in rue Saint-Bernard up to the church Sainte-Marguerite.

Eglise Sainte-Marguerite

The quaint little church with its small public garden was built in 1624 (under king Louis XIII). Three hundred people  were buried in the cemetery during the French revolution. This includes the first seventy three people beheaded at place de la Bastille. The guillotine stood there only for three days; it was rapidly withdrawn as many people of this neighborhood were showing their anger. The other people buried were the ones beheaded Place de la Nation (called at this time la place du Trône Renversé- (overturn throne).
There is mystery around Marie Antoinette's son - Prince Louis XVII who officially died n 1795 and buried here in the cemetery. However exhumations made in the 19th century revealed that the buried child was a 15-18 old boy when the Prince was ten years old at the time of its presumed death.

The cemetery was closed in 1806 and is today closed to the public. It has still several tombs, like this one photographed by Atget. It is the one of Georges Jacob, a Parisian cabinet maker (1768-1803), also known as  Georges Jacob II to avoid confusion with his more famous father.

Ancien cimetière Sainte Marguerite
Buste de Georges Jacob
(Musée Carnavalet)

Sainte Marguerite cemetery
Georges Jacob
(Musée Carnavalet)

Sainte Marguerite cemetery
rue Saint Bernard
(Musée Carnavalet)

Plusieurs passages ... passage Lhomme

Let's come back rue Saint-Bernard, and turn on the right onto rue Charles Delescluze, an emblematic figure of la Commune (a temporary revolutionary  government in Paris in 1871).

Let's continue onto rue de la Main d'Or with two bistros, one with an old sign board “Bois, Charbons, Vins et Liqueurs” (Wood, Charcoal, Wine and Liqueurs).

Let's turn left onto the narrow passage de la Main d'Or which gives onto rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine. At the n°17 , take passage de la Bonne Graine (the Good Seed), named from a former seed business. 
This alley way leads to two other passages: Passage Josset and Passage Lhomme which also opens rue de Charonne. Passage Josset is often locked with a code; if you cannot enter, go to rue de Charonne to enter into Passage Lhomme, a charming old one with still an old manufacture chimney. 

Passage Lhomme

If you are a fan of Cedric Klapish, French movie director, stop at the Pause Café. His movie "Chacun cherche son chat" (When the cat's away) was filmed in the neighborhood and in this café.

From rue de Charonne, turn left onto rue des Taillandiers. Taillandiers is the word for edge-tool makers, a common cutting tools activity in this neighborhood in the past.

Turn left onto rue de la Roquette up to Passage Thiéré. 

70, rue de la Roquette

This fountain like a small temple was built in 1846.

Fontaine rue de la Roquette
(Mission du Patrimoine Photographique)

Passage Thiéré

As shown by Atget's photo, there were also many workshops, scrap yards, tinsmiths and copper smiths in the past. Many of these craftsmen were from French Central Region - Auvergne. Iron smiths were essential for the wood working machines used by joiners and cabinet makers.

Old shop
23, passage Thiéré
(Musée Carnavalet)

At 13 Passage Thiéré, an open-air tennis court has now replaced the buildings we can see on Atget's photo. The cobbled yard covered with grass and the small house in the back are still there, but nothing evokes the artisanal activity of the past. 

Cour Veissière
11 passage Thiéré
Atget 1913
(Musée Carnavalet)

The picture taken by Atget shows the hotel Sainte-Anne, protector of the confraternity of carpenters.   Many carpenters were working in the Faubourg. On Saint-Joseph day, they were marching in the streets  with their masterpiece. They were wearing gold earrings with their emblems, a compass or a square that we also can see on the sign board of the hotel.

At n° 27, passage Thiéré, let’s now follow passage Louis-Philippe which ends at n° 21, rue de Lappe.

Passage Thiéré, 
hôtel Sainte-Anne, mère des Compagnons Charpentiers 
Atget vers 1913
(Musée Carnavalet)

Passage Thiéré,
hôtel Sainte-Anne, mère des Compagnons Charpentiers
Atget vers 1913
(Musée Carnavalet)

Rue de Lappe

The nickname of the whole district was Little Auvergne. Like the Passage Thiéré and Rue de la Roquette, Rue de Lappe was the fief of the Auvergnats. On Sundays, they met in balls where they danced the traditional folk dance (la bourrée) to the music of the musette that was a wind instrument made of goatskin similar to a bagpipe or a biniou player.

Then, the accordion replaced the biniou and the java and tango replaced the traditional bourrées.
This was also the time when bands of bad guys were coming from Ménilmontant and Belleville, to dance in the rue de Lappe.
For a long time, this gave the street a bad reputation, which it still has for many Parisians. On Fridays and Saturdays night, the street is animated with Latin, Cuban, West Indian and African music coming out of the many bars and discotheques.

"Au joueur de biniou"
19 rue de Lappe
Atget 1911
(Musée Carnavalet)

The name Au Lion d'Or (Golden Lion) is also a familiar name given in the past to the inns, as it sounds in French like a pun: au lit on dort (in bed we sleep)...

Everything is gone, the shop, the gate and the sign.

Cabaret "Au lion d'or", enseigne, grille,
45, rue de Lappe
Atget 1913
(Musée Carnavalet)

Of course, no trace of the Sheet Metal Shop is left. It is replaced nowadays by a Cuban restaurant, the first one created in Paris in 1997.

Tôlerie Grouffau (Sheet Metal shop)
15, rue de Lappe
(Musée du Carnavalet)

On the other hand, the ball whose sign can be seen on the left in the photo taken by Atget is the ancestor of the one that was to become the most famous of the bals musette, the Balajo at n°9.
In 1936, a certain Jo France reopened the Bal Vernet, after its former owner sold it after the murder of a prostitute in the hotel above the dance hall. The Balajo has kept its original decoration of skyscrapers and its stars on the midnight blue ceiling made by Henri Mahé also decorator of the cinema Rex and of the Moulin Rouge.
It has also kept its tradition of the bal musette every Sunday afternoon, a digression to the other more current dances performed in the evening.

My grandfather Jean, a boy from Rue de la Roquette and whose parents came from Saint-Poncy, a village in the Cantal, perhaps went there to dance; I can imagine him as a young man with Madeleine, dancing a musette valse, in a little old ball, his yes in her eyes like the song Bourvil was singing so well.

Cour Saint-Louis

Rather unexpected in this street, behind the door of 26, one can find the courtyard of Saint-Louis with a very rural atmosphere, if one manages to get in.

Cour Saint-Louis
26 rue de Lappe
Atget - 1912
(Musée Carnavalet)

Let's go back to rue de Lappe and stop at Produits d'Auvergne, at n°6, an old shop, created in 1870, which sells Cantal sausages and cheeses. It is hard to resist the tempting view and smell of the various saucissons.

Cour Damoye

From rue de la Roquette, continue into rue Daval where one can find the very nice cour Damoye. A long quiet cobbled alley, with vines plants along the buildings. At first, it seems just to be a calm scene from the past but it is also quite a modern place with offices located in old renovated workshops.

Quite in contrast with the peaceful passage, when going out, one can be surprised by the busy and noisy place de la Bastille.

Place Bastille

Since the construction of the Bastille Opera House and the disappearance of furniture makers, Parisians no longer refer to the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, simply renamed "la Bastille".
The gentrification like in the nearby Marais district also hit the Bastille, of which the Darmoye passage is a quite good example.

This is where our stroll ends. However, before returning to the Bastille metro station, which is just a few steps away, if you still have some time, you can have a quick look at the passage du Cheval-Blanc, which opens at n°2 rue de la Roquette.

Cour Février
Passage du Cheval Blanc

Cour Février
Passage du Cheval Blanc

Entrée du faubourg Saint-Antoine
vue prise de la rue de la Roquette
Atget - 1909
(Musée Carnavalet)

Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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