Tuesday 14 December 2010

Urban Archeology

On the Avenue Parmentier, the renovations of a shop unit have unearthed the wonderful vintage sign of one of the previous occupiers. Hand painted in graphic blacks and reds, there is definitely something here that screams the 1950s.

Although the unit is currently boarded up, it is easy to imagine how it may have been in its prime. Large plate glass windows with the latest
car models proudly displayed behind. Inside, moustachioed gentlemen in dapper suits, and a heady smell of leather, polish and petrol. This was a time when the car was one of the kings of the city and a sign of prestige, not the pariah it has become in Paris today.

Finally, for the urban archeologist, there is also an interesting clue to help date the find from these excavations. The telephone number contains seven figures, a system that was abandoned in Paris in 1963. It would even be possible to locate this photo without knowing the address of the shop, as the 023 at the begining of the number corresponded to the nearby Oberkampf telephone exchange.


Peter (the other) said...

Human homes have their sentimentality, births and deaths etc. Yet, there is something even, for me, more bittersweet, the traces of ancient dreams, in ghost businesses and factories. The daily sweat creating something useful to an anonymous person perhaps far away, the joys of success or the frustration of failure, all of which I have experienced. The statistics are not good for most enterprises. All animals live somewhere, but only people open business'. I hope these people sold out well all those years ago.

landscape lover said...

It is fascinating to see such glimpses of the history of Paris - I love the way you have seized the seemingly innocuous phone number to date this sign. As a landscape historian, I am more used to using plans, maps, plants and styles to try to place an image in context.
There are almost always layers and half-hidden tokens to help us explore the past, but it is so easy not to see them.

Cergie said...

Il est triste que ces façades aient été rénovées, cependant il en est ainsi, il faut comprendre les nouveaux occupants notamment en ce qui concerne la signalisation même si elle s'insère et respecte la structure.

Dans mes anciens agendas, j'ai la trace de numéros où manque l'indication de la région. 01., 02., 03. En quelle année cela a-t-il été institué ? Ce n'est pas si ancien.
Soit je complète, ce qui n'est pas trop dur ; soit cela trahit que ces relations tiennent de l'archéologie.

expat said...

In the 50s and early 60s, in both London and Paris, local exchanges had names that were encoded as the first three letters. In the 6eme arrondissement most phone numbers were like DANton 1234.

One such number turns up in the film "A Bout de Souffle."

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