latin quarter, Maps

The Last Wooden Staircase

8 rue Boutebrie Paris 75005

The Rue Boutebrie has been around since the 13th century and began as Rue Erembourg de Brie, after a noble who lived there. There are two very interesting and old things on this street that make this girl giddy with glee.

1. If you’re an Original Gansta Paris History of our Streets faithful follower, you already know that the house at number 6 is OLD AS DIRT (not even the owner of the restaurant on the ground level knew the building’s age) because it has the signature gabled roof/maison à pignon that can only mean it was constructed before the 17th century. (These kinds of buildings with roofs facing the street were forbidden to be built after 1667 when King Louis XIV deemed them a fire risk. There are only about 20 or so of these old sexy beasts still in this area of Paris)

2. Thanks to the nice guy at Grains Nobles, I was able to breech the locked entryway at number 8 to take a peek at the historic treasure waiting in the hallway. Like a medieval prostitute with a bad case of the clap, this staircase has been AROUND.

Just a typical entranceway to a 16th century building right? WRONG!

This wooden sculpted masterpiece has been in this building since the late 16th century and was classified a historic monument in 1925. It is in incredible condition- it appears to have been resurfaced recently because I find it hard to believe anything this smooth and shiny could be 400+ years old.

I walked it up to the 5th floor hoping I could run into one of the apartment owners (whom I would automatically befriend because who doesn’t love a girl only 3 years past her prime with a passion for history and nice long legs? They would then invite me into their 16th century home where we would share a café and count the inevitable cockroaches who skitter past that undoubtedly live in their walls) but alas, no one was home.

Side Note: Gonnorhea was referred to as the clap before it was even Gonnorhea; described in medevial times as a clapping burning sensation during urination.

ile de la cité, Maps

The First Captured Image of Movement

21 Quai de Bourbon Paris 75004

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I see an old photograph taken in Paris, my first thoughts are “Where was this taken” and ‘Can I see this same image through my camera lens today?”.

Maybe it’s part of my fascination with the idea that I am walking in the same steps of someone from the past, who although may be long gone- can still share with me this same setting (more or less) some 170 years later? I’m obsessed with the concept of “FIRSTS”, and I stumbled upon this photo (or Daguerreotype if you want to be precise) taken around 1851 by French photographer and artist Charles Nègre, who was noted for his preference of photographing the working class. (Hell yeah! A photographer of the PEOPLE!)

Remarkably, this is considered THE FIRST captured image of movement. These three youngsters are chimney sweeps, walking along the Quai de Bourbon on the northern side of ile Saint Louis.

I immediately analyzed this photo, looking for clues to give its precise location today. It means a lot more to me if I can pinpoint THAT EXACT SPOT. The paving on the wall has obviously been replaced. (But you know damn well I would have sought out these exact crevices had it not been) You can’t see much definition of the buildings in the background, located on the opposite Quai des Célestins- plus that area was largely leveled in the mid 1900’s. I looked for more info on the photograph and discovered that Charles had a workshop on the Quai at number 21. Presuming he took this photo not far from his workshop, this is the closest image I could come up with that did not contain trees.

TAH-DAH! Long before child labor laws, you can imagine these boys working under these hazardous conditions likely missed out on a childhood we take for granted today. I feel somewhat comforted that even if they weren’t aware in that moment of their participation in this FIRST, their suffering counted for something and here they are remembered in 2021.