As you may have seen in a previous post about Rue Saint Denis, there are a lot of passages, galleries. I we take a walk through the Passage de Ponceau, which has been there since 1826…
… we will arrive on Square Emile Chautemps, and if we cross this square, we will arrive at “Arts et Metiers”, on which I also already posted concerning its museum. In a future post I will talk about the other parts of what used to be the Saint Martin in the Fields (Saint Martin des Champs) Abbey.
Today, let’s make a stop at the Square Emile Chautemps, named after a 19th century politician. It’s a very nice and calm square, planned and decorated by Messrs. Alphand and Davioud, as so many other parks, squares and monuments in Paris, created during the 18th century Haussmannian period. There are some nice playgrounds for as well kids as elderly people. There is a monument to celebrate some victories during the Crimean War (1853-56).
Behind the leaves, we can discover a theatre, Théatre de la Gaîté. It dates from around 1870. Jacques Offenbach directed the theatre for a couple of years and several of his works premiered here. The concert hall had some 1500 seats.
The interior was to a large extent destroyed during the latter part of the 20th century and some unfortunate efforts to transform it to some kind of “Magic Planet” were soon abandoned. Recently, the City of Paris decided to transform the theatre to a centre for digital art and contemporary music. It was opened in March this year.
As you can see, the interior looks today quite different from the lyrical 18th century theatre it used to be.
One thing has more or less been saved as it once was - the foyer, the lobby.
Before taking the direction of “Art et Metiers”, maybe a word about the little statue of Marc Seguin, who constructed a first European suspension bridge, later administered some 186 toll bridges all over France… and especially designed steam locomotives. He helped George and Robert Stephenson by a multi-tube boiler of his invention - which increased locomotive speed by some seven times – to, with “the Rocket”, win the famous speed contest “Rainhall Trials” in 1829 with a top speed of 30 miles (48 km) / h.