Demolitions de la cité (1862)

Haussmann was determined to reconstruct the heart of medieval Paris, which entailed the destruction of many of the oldest and poorest districts of the city, including Île de la Cité, the island that formed the original Roman town. Before Haussmann’s demolitions, some 14,000 people lived on the island in slum conditions. Haussmann replaced most of these with widened streets and new or enlarged public buildings, notably the police headquarters and a rebuilt Palace of Justice. This image from the French magazine, L’Illustration, shows the ongoing destruction of many to make way for a widened Rue de la Cité and a widened Place du Parvis de Notre Dame. The accompanying article was equivocal about the destruction. “[A] grand city that reflects, in its monuments and buildings, the history of a people will always be more interesting and picturesque than a new city built at right angles in which all street look alike.” Yet, the article argued that it had become necessary to tear down “ancient black buildings…cracked and crumbling from head to toe that scowled at their neighbors.” Note the horse-drawn omnibus crossing the bridge in the foreground. L’Illustration was the French quivalent of the The Illustrated London News, Illustrirte Zeitung, Harper’s and Leslie’s in the US, which blossomed in the mid-19th century, as lithography and related mechanical printing processes made it far easier and cheaper to combine illustration and print.

See also: European Inspirations and Mass Transit in London



Chapman, J. M., and Brian Chapman. The Life and Times of Baron Haussmann: Paris in the Second Empire. London: Weidenfield and Nicolson, 1957.

DeJean, Joan. How Paris Became Paris: The Invention of the Modern City. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Jordan, David P. "Haussmann and Haussmanisation: The Legacy for Paris." French Historical Studies 27 (2004) 1: 87-113.

Jordan, David P. Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Pinkney, David H. Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958.

Saalman, Howard. Haussmann: Paris Transformed. New York: George Braziller, 1971.

Sutcliffe, Anthony. The Autumn of Central Paris: The Defeat of Town Planning, 1850-1970. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1971.

“Demolitions de la cité,” from L’Illustration, vol. 39 (1862), pp. 104-105. The Newberry Library, A 54 .51, vol.39