Thursday 29 September 2011

Invisible Buildings

On the Boulevard de Courcelles, opposite the Parc Monceau, there exists a little piece of the twilight zone. As you walk up along the street you may notice that the number 72 has for neighbour ... the number 78! So just what has happened to the numbers 74 and 76?

The buildings at 72 and 78 seem to be of a similar size and vintage, so when did they eat up their neighbours and remove them from the map? The answer seems to be stranger than we might at first imagine.

According to the 'plans parcellaires' of the area dating from the end of the 19th century (which can be viewed online on the city of Paris website), there was at the time a 72, 74 and 76...but no 78! What seems to have happened therefore is that at some point after this the 74 and 76 were demolished and replaced by a single building which was given the number 78, but why this should be the case remains a mystery!

Such cases are not actually very rare, but normally the gap between the two numbers can be explained, for example, by the presence of a newer road which has cut between them. Even more common still is the newer, larger building which takes the place of several smaller demolished structures, adopting all of their previous numbers.

In London, a famous example provides the flip side of this phenomenon. Two houses at 23/24 Leinster Gardens were demolished in the 1860s to provide ventilation space for the newly installed Metropolitan Railway, but as this was something of an upmarket district, the residents insisted that the space be filled with a fake facade. These 'dummy houses' still exist today, and of course have been the address given by many scammers over the years!

The city, with its constant destructions and reconstructions, is riddled with wormholes. By nature, its history is non-linear, so should we be surprised to find such inconsistencies in its labelling?

1 comment:

FotoMarg said...

There seems to be quite a lot of unusual numbering in Paris streets. From your research it appears that there is usually a valid but not immediately obvious reason for it. The London reference is interesting alo.

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