Hôtel de Ville Paris

HOTEL DE VILLE PARIS — This magnificent structure has been built to replace the old Hotel de Ville burned by the Communists in 1871. Its exterior is imposing not only from its grand proportions, but also from the splendor of its decorations. Domes, towers, windows and even chimneys are all adorned with statuary or elaborate carving. Upon the walls there is a veritable population of illustrious Parisians, and on the roof are ten colossal gilded figures representing heralds, summoning, as it were, the people of Paris to this, their City Hall. The courts and council-chambers of this edifice are also lavishly decorated with paintings and statues. One cannot look upon this modern structure without recalling the old Hotel de Ville which was its predecessor. It played a most important part in the great Revolution of 1789. Thither the destroyers of the Bastille were led in triumph. There the ill-fated Louis XVI assumed the tricoloured cockade before the maddened populace. Within its walls, after his arrest, Robespierre attempted suicide; and from its steps in 1848 Louis Blanc proclaimed the establishment of the French Republic. It seems incredible that Frenchmen could have been found capable of destroying that historic structure. But on the 20th of May, 1871, the Communists placed barrels of gunpowder and petroleum in its noble halls, and, when compelled by the Government troops to vacate the building, they set fire to the combustibles prepared for destruction. Many of the miscreants, however, perished in the conflagration which ensued, or were shot down by the infuriated soldiery. Thus it is in Paris. Behind her stateliest palaces and athwart her brightest streets and squares falls the grim shadow of some tragic episode in history. Yet, after all, these startling contrasts give to Paris that charm of human struggle and adventure, which no brand new and unhistoric city ever can possess. The difference is akin to that between a young recruit arrayed in bright new uniform and weapons never used save on parade, and some old warrior of a hundred battles, whose body bears the scars of conflict and on whose blunted sword are stains of blood. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)

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