Sunday, January 20, 2008
Our home in DC is one in a sea of red brick colonials and so too our home here is one in a sea of Haussmannian apartment buildings. In 1852, Baron Haussmann was commissioned by Napoleon III to modernize Paris, an effort that included development of a new sewer system and creation of the wide tree-lined boulevards, monumental public buildings and parks for which Paris is so well known and loved. (The fact that some 20,000 buildings and 40,000 people were displaced in the process is a mere footnote to the progress.) He also established uniform building heights and thus the Haussmannian building was born. The ground floor was to be reserved for shops and offices. The first floor (with a slightly lower ceiling than the floors above) was to accommodate the shopkeeper and his family. The second floor was the best of the lot with a balcony sweeping along the front. The third, fourth, and fifth floors were somewhat less grand but decidely nicer than the sixth floor attics, reserved naturally for the servants for all those living so splendidly below.
Our building probably dates from the turn of the century and sports a tiny elevator up the middle of the staircase. A doctor and a lawyer occupy the ground floor and first floor. Higher up, we don't have the full balcony but french doors on the street open out onto iron grilles that are balcony height. Two elegant fireplaces grace our living and dining room with gilt edged mirrors above, and there are fancy plaster moldings throughout. That's just some random building in the picture above, but you get the drift. Come up and see us some time.