About the stroll

I have found very few photos of Belleville taken by Atget.However, following his steps, we can cover three themes all typical and symbolic of this district:

-The water manholes, along the Belleville aqueduct, used for collecting water, inspecting and maintaining the underground water pipes.

-Aspects of the working class of Belleville with a worker cooperative: "la Bellevilloise",rue Boyer

-The last days of the Paris Commune (French revolution from March, 28 to May, 28, 1871), rueHaxo.

We will also discover several small streets which have kept their houses and gardens.
But some places like Cité Leroy had to fight to keep and develop their fragile environment. The massive urbanization taking place in the 70s completely transformed the district; Place des Fêtes is quite an example. Obviously the objective of cost effectiveness resulted into severe architectural errors and many areas of the old Belleville village disappeared forever within the concrete.

Every year in May, artists of Belleville open their studios to the public. Beyond its obvious artistic interest, it is a very nice opportunity to discover the quaint narrow alleys and courtyards which give an insight of the old village.


Stroll Paris Belleville itinerary

We will arrive at metro station Place des Fêtes. We will discover Belleville manholes built above the aqueduct. We will begin with the manhole de la Lanterne, rue Augustin Thiery. We will proceed on rue des Solitaires, rue de la Palestine and finally rue des Cascades where we will see two other old manholes.

Then we will walk to rue Boyer to see this historical place, "la Bellevilloise", a former worker co-op. It is better to come during the week-ends in order to enjoy the place which has succeeded so far to stay out of the control of the property developers. It is now a nice and large centre with a restaurant, a terrace providing concerts and multidisciplinary events.

Before reaching rue Haxo, we will discover some well hidden alleys: Villa de l’ Ermitage, Cité Leroy, Villa du Borrégo. Passage du Monténégro, rue Paul de Kock and rue Emile Desvaux, we will see other houses withn gardens.
We will end the stroll at the metro station Télégraphe.

Belleville aqueduct - Manhole la Lanterne

Regard de la Lanterne 3, rue Augustin Thierry

Manhole la Lanterne
3, rue Augustin Thierry

Manholes are the visible remains of the old underground pipelines which were supplying Paris with spring water. These small stone buildings were giving access to the pipelines for their control and maintenance.
The Belleville Aqueduct which was capturing the water running on the southern side of Belleville was starting at the manhole of la Lanterne (historic monument). This massive stone construction built in the 16thcentury has kept the stairs leading to the basin where the water was collected and then distributed to the aqueduct. Generally, it can be visited during the Heritage Days.

Let’s go back rue Petitot and let’s continue straight on rue des Solitaires.

Belleville aqueduct - Manhole des Marais

Today, few of the fifteen manholes of the Belleville aqueduct are visible. For instance, the manhole des Marais,captured by Atget was demolished in 1904.

Ancien regard des Marais 41, rue des Solitaires Atget 1901(Musée Carnavalet)

Old manhole des Marais
41, rue des Solitaires
Atget 1901
(Musée Carnavalet)

Belleville aqueduct - Manhole du Chaudron

Let’s turn left into rue de Palestine.

As shown by the photo taken by Atget in 1901, the former manhole du Chaudron was outside. It looks quite a small hut with the barrel and the hen house.
Today, at 6, rue de Palestine, the manhole du Chaudron fills all the available space of the tiny courtyard. For the nice guy, an Ukrainian who kindly let me enter in, the manhole seemed to appear as a mysterious small building, a little bit bizarre, and his amazement was as high as my enthusiasm …

Old manhole 6 rue Palestine Atget

Old manhole
6, rue Palestine
Atget – 1901

6 rue de Palestine manhole du Chaudron courtyard

Let's continue walking in rue de Palestine where we can see now the rear of the church of Saint-Baptiste. This neo-gothic style church was built in the 19th century. The former church, standing in the centre of the village of Belleville and surrounded by its cemetery was destroyed in 1854. The new cemetery of Belleville was relocated in the former Ménilmontant Park.

Let's cross rue de Belleville and let's take rue de Jourdain up to place des Grandes Rigoles. This name of Rigoles (gullies) like rue des Cascades (waterfalls), rue de la Mare (pond) and rue de la Duée( spurting source) can tell about the availability of spring water in the old Belleville.

Let’s take rue Levert to the right up place Henri Krasucki, then rue des Cascades on the left.

Rue des Cascades

44 rue des Cascades Casque d'Or the Golden Helmet

The stroll in La Bastille, rue de Lappes is referring to bad boys coming from their Belleville to dance halls (bals musettes) in rue de Lappe. Called Apaches, in the 1900's, they are the characters of the French movie Casque d'Or (the Golden Helmet), directed by Jacques Becker, with Manda the carpenter (SergeReggiani) and the member of a criminal syndicate led by Fèlix Leca (Claude Dauphin).
Leca is living at 44, rue des Cascades, one of the shot movie locations. This is where the blond and beautiful Marie, as the Golden Helmet (SimoneSignoret) is visiting Leca to get his help in arranging Manda's escape from prison.

The movie ends with the music of the song Le Temps des Cerises (The time of Cherries). This song strongly associated with the Paris Commune is without any surprise the name taken by the libertarian cultural space, located to the near 42 ter, rue des Cascades. Quite a symbol of the community spirit which has always made its mark on this district. The goal of this association, created by Lucio Artabia is to support young artists outside the usual commercial channels.

Belleville aqueduct - Manholes rue des Cascades

Just after the curve of the street, we can see the Saint-Martin manhole, in front of rue de Savies. Since the 12th century, the Belleville's springs were used by the Saint-Martin-des-Champs abbey and the Templar. The source of the spring water was rue de Savies on a land belonging to the Saint-Martin-des-Champs abbey. The water conducted to the Saint-Martin manhole was directly supplied through a special pipe to the Knights Templar.

Manhole rue des Cascades
Old manhole and fountain owned by the Abbey of Saint Martin des Champs 42 rue des Cascades Atget
Regard de la Roquette

A little bit further at nr 41, rue des Cascades, the manhole de la Roquette is still visible in a yard beneath the street.

Old manhole and fountain owned by the Abbey of  Saint Martin-des-Champs
42, rue des Cascades
Atget - 1901

Regard de la Roquette

Rue Boyer

la Bellevilloise rue Boyer

Let's now continue up to rue deMénilmontant, that we take on the left. Then we turn on the right into rue Boyer.

Since 2006, la Bellevilloise is a large space with cafes and terraces dedicated to concerts, events, markets (books, producers), fairs (like the Grand salon de l'art abordable - Affordable Art Fair).

La Bellevilloise rue Boyer
La Bellevilloise rue Boyer

Initially it was a worker co-operative funded in 1877 by mechanics. Their motto is sounding today quite modern: “Direct from the producer to the consumer”. Besides the selling of commodities at a reduced price (grocery, meat, coal, hardware), the cooperative was offering social and cultural activities; there was a café, a library, a solidarity fund, a shool...

The implementation in 23, rue Boyer started in 1892 with a bakery. Later in 1897, a deli and a cafe were opened (nr 19 and 25 rue Boyer). In 1910, the cooperative extended their buildings between nr 19 and 21, named the House of People. Its success was big and got almost ten thousand members in 1914.

In celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, la Bellevilloise built a new red brick building at n°25, showing their membership to the communist party in 1924 with the motto Science and Work and the hammer and sickle on the facade. Then, it collapsed with the crisis in the 1930s. Each building was sold and replaced by various activities like a factory of bags and satchels, a school of dance, a pension fund … until 2000 when it escaped real estate agents to become this trendy and informal space.

These great photos by Atget showing two wine merchants rue Boyer make me think of these lines from the book the Belly of Paris (Le Ventre de Paris) written by Emile Zola:

Through the clear glass windows you could see the interior, which was decorated with festoons of foliage, vine branches, and grapes, painted on a soft green ground … The counter or “bar” on the right looked especially rich, and glittered like polished silver. Its zinc-work, hanging with a broad bulging border over the sub-structure of white and red marble, edged it with a rippling sheet of metal as if it were some high altar laden with embroidery. At one end, over a gas stove, stood porcelain pots, decorated with circles of brass, and containing punch and hot wine. At the other extremity was a tall and richly sculptured marble fountain, from which a fine stream of water, so steady and continuous that it looked as though it were motionless, flowed into a basin. In the centre, edged on three sides by the sloping zinc surface of the counter, was a second basin for rinsing and cooling purposes, where quart bottles of draught wine, partially empty, reared their greenish necks. Then on the counter, to the right and left of this central basin, were batches of glasses symmetrically arranged: little glasses for brandy, thick tumblers for draught wine, cup glasses for brandied fruits, glasses for absinthe, glass mugs for beer, and tall goblets, all turned upside down and reflecting the glitter of the counter.“

(Translation : Ernest Alfred Vizetelly

Marchand de vin 21 rue Boyer Atget

Marchand de vin
21 rue Boyer
Atget - 1910/1912
(MoMA) (BnF)

Marchand de vin 15 rue Boyer Atget

Marchand de vin
15 rue Boyer
Atget - 1910/1912
(MoMA) (BnF)

Villa de l'Ermitage

Villa de l'Ermitage

Let's come back and cross rue de Ménilmontantand and take the opposite street, la rue de l'Ermitage. At the nr 14-16, let's take on our right Villa de l'Ermitage, then Cité Leroy.

Villa de l'Ermitage is a charming lane between 14-16, rue de l'Ermitage and 313, rue des Pyrénées where we can find Cité Leroy. With the grass on the pavement, the small gardens, the colourful shutters, we feel like strolling in a country village.

Cité Leroy

Cite Leroy

Cité Leroy almost disappeared in 1993 to be replaced by a large complex of about one hundred and thirty apartments. Their inhabitants resisted and took actions with the Paris and 20th district City Halls, and finally the housing project was abandoned.

Let's come back rue des Pyrénées, and on the left let's walk up to the pretty place du Guignier. Then, rue du Guignier on the right, and then rue des Rigoles on the right. Let's turn left in rue Pixérécourt, and on the right passage de la Duée. This passage used to be a narrow street, one of the latest and narrowest former paths in Paris. Since a renovation project in 2000, the 80 cm (31 in) narrow lane lost as much charm than it won several meters width.

Place du Guignier

Place du Guignier

We now turn left onto rue de laDuée. Between 1900 and 1908, the headquarters of the Human Regeneration League were located at Nr 27. The league aimed to convert the working class to birth control for improving their economical condition and was providing contraception education with  public conferences and brochures. After its dissolution in 1908, it was replaced by an other group (Génération consciente) until 1920 when a law was forbidding any propaganda around contraception.

Now let's cross rue Pelleport and go onto rue du Borrégo.The shop at the nr18 is supplying products directly from local producers within 200 kilometers around Paris. Remember the Bellevilloise motto, more than one hundred years ago. “ Direct from the producer to the consumer.” It resonates with the today motto of the shop: “ Buy local at fair price for consumer and producer.”

At n° 33, villa du Borrégo, there are pretty and quiet houses. A little bit further, Villa Amélie has some charm too. Arrived at the rue Haxo, we turn left.

Villa du Borrego

Villa du Borrégo

Villa Amelie

Villa Amélie

Rue Haxo - Villa of the hostages

During the bloody week that ended the Paris Commune on May 29, 1871, many violent street-fights opposed theCommunards and the government troops. Villa of the hostages (Villa des Otages) is marked by one of these last days. On Friday, May 26, fifty prisoners, mainly priests and gendarmes were taken from the prison La Roquette to a Commune command place at 85, rueHaxo, where they were all killed.

Later in 1872, Jesuits bought the land between 83, rue Haxo and 55, rue du Borrégo in memory of this specific Commune event, a little bit forgotten today. The church of Notre-Dame-des-Otages (Our Lady of the Hostages) was built later between 1936 and 1938. In the yard of the church, there is a memorial laid on a piece of the wall against which the hostages were killed. There is also a door from the prison La Roquette where three Jesuits priests were locked up.

Church Notre dame des Otages our lady of hostages rue Haxo
Church of Notre dame des Otages old door prison La roquette
Villa des Otages mai 1871 rue HaxoAtget – 1901(BnF)

Villa des Otages
mai 1871
rue Haxo
Atget – 1901

At 85, rue Haxo, nothing remains from the Villa of the Hostages, but the name of the passage where the hostages were fired.

Rue Paul de Kock

Rue Paul de Kock

Let's now walk along rue Haxo up to Passage Montenegro on the left. Arrived rue de Romainville, lets' stroll in the streets Emile Desvaux and Paul de Kock.

Back to rue de Romainville, we go up to the metro station Télégraphe in front of the Belleville cemetery where two monuments can be seen. One where theHaxo hostages were buried and one in memory of the Paris Commune.

Located on the second highest hill of Paris after Montmartre, the metro station is very deep. Its name, Télégraphe recalls the experiment of Claude Chappe's optical telegraph, which provided the news about 1792 French victories of Fleurus and Jemmapes battles. 

Street art in Belleville

Lastly, I would like to end about street-art as Belleville neighborhood is one of the key spot in Paris. You may want to join street art walking tours...

Agrume - rue des Cascades 
(Pierre Gayacan)


Pavel Smetana

Pavel Smetana

Fred le Chevalier

Fred le Chevalier





street art Belleville
Bertrand Bellon

Bertrand Bellon 





Texte / Photos : Martine Combes

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