Built in an area designated under Charles X as the ‘European district’ in 1826, the road’s name was intended to celebrate the close relations between France and Belgium after the 1820 Treaty of Kortrijk with the Kingdom of the Netherlands that defined Belgium’s borders.
Its only real historical signficance is that having done extremely well as a writer, Émile Zola, occupied the whole of the ground and first floors of No. 21 bis.
On two of the walls of the house were portraits of Zola and his wife given to them by Édouard Manet, and on others paintings by his childhood friend, Paul Cézanne. There is now a plaque to Zola next to the main entrance.
In the 17th century it was called ‘The rubbish dump path’ (chemin de la Voirie), but when in the 18th century it graduated to being a road it was given the name of the Cadet family who owned some of the land it crossed.
In 1820 the road also housed the Bazar francais, a shop that served as a meeting place for several disgruntled army officers who planned unsuccessfully to overthrow the Bourbons and bring Napoleon’s son to the French imperial throne.
On March 15 1917 the first issue of a new literary review founded by Pierre Reverdy appeared in Paris called ‘North-South‘. Its title indicated a rapprochement between the artistic and literary colonies in the Montmartre and Montparnasse areas, connected directly by the metro.
The Lodge of France’s oldest, traditional liberal Masonic order, the Grand Orient of France, was based at No. 16. This was where many political events took place. These included the founding of the League for the Rights of Man in 1888 and the first show in 1933 of the October Group’s play supporting the Scottsborough Boys, the young black men wrongly found guilty of rape in 1931.
French Masonic orders were banned in 1940 under the German Occupation , and the offices of the Grad Orient taken over by the French police’s intelligence unit tracking down secret societies. One hundred agents worked there under the direction of the Gestapo. On August 11 1941 a second law was added to permit the seizure and sale of all Masonic temples and goods belonging to individual Masons. The photo of the entrance to the Lodge above was taken in 1941.
After Jules Vallès gave a lecture on Balzac at the Casino Hall at No. 18 on January 15 1865, Vallès was fired from his job in the Vaugirard Town Hall for having criticised the Second Empire.
Lenin also showed up there on January 12 1910 to see a play called ‘The Barricade‘ by the catholic reactionary Paul Bourget.
During the Paris Commune‘s final days on May 22 1871 a barricade with 12 canon crossed the road at the Place de L’Opéra.
The first Pan African Congress was held at the Grand-Hôtel de la Paix at No. 12 on February 19 1919. Fifty black representatives who had been excluded from the Versailles Peace Conference met together, closely watched by the police. The American William du Bois and Senegalese Blaise Diagne were its joint chair persons.
The Café de la Paix on the ground floor of the hotel on the northwest corner of the junction between the Boulevard meets the Opera Square opened on June 30 1862. On July 14 1937 it was attacked by striking waiters.
Throughout the German occupation a notice was displayed saying: Jews not allowed (Interdit aux juifs).
The radical democratic German poet Georg Herwegh put up Marx and Jenny von Westphalen at No. 13 when the couple first arrived in Paris on October 12 1843.
The victorious Austrian Emperor Francis 1 stayed at the Colonnade private mansion at Nos. 37 to 43 in 1814 and again in 1815, when it became the Foreign Ministry. It stayed that until 1853.
On September 7 1831 a demonstration outside the Hotel de la Colonnade, the Foreign Ministry at Nos. 37-43, was dispersed violently by the army. The demonstrators shouted: ‘Long Live Poland, Down with the Ministers’.
In the early evening of February 23 1848 another demonstration outside the Ministry sparked the 1848 Revolution. The 14th Line Regiment, protecting the sacked reactionary prime minister Guizot, fired directly into the crowd killing 52 people and wounded many more. The bodies were then paraded throughout Paris and by the morning most arms shops had been looted and some 1,500 barricades erected.
A big meeting room at No. 39 saw several political meetings at the end of the Second Empire in 1870 and 1871. On September 22 1889 Louise Michel and Maxime Lisbonne, known as the d’Artagnan of the Commune, organised a meeting there in that year’s election campaign. Lisbonne’s manifesto stated:
‘ENTERTAINER I am! ENTERTAINER I remain! Give me your votes to swell the numbers of those who dare to say the same, and you will see that if I hesitate, like a real entertainer, the words on the paper that will come out of the hat will be ‘DEMOCRATIC SOCIAL REVOLUTION’.
In 1864 Haussmann prolonged the Clichy Boulevard by extending it with the Boulevard des Martyrs and the Boulevard Pigalle. These were the old broad roads that had followed the 18th century tax farmers’ wall around Paris and which had helped lead to the 1789 French Revolution.
When it was still called the Boulevard Pigalle, Daumier lived at what is now 36 Boulevard de Clichy from roughly 1859 to 1863.
Just to the south of the Montmartre hill the Boulevard was the border between a more expensive inner-Paris and a cheaper area for artists to live in and bars serving tax-free booze. Its even numbers on its northern Montmartre side are in the 18th arrondissement, and the odd numbers in the 9th.
From 1886 to 1888, Paul Signac‘s studio was at No. 130. He then moved his studio to No. 20 from 1889 to 1891, where Georges Seurat‘s meetings of the Pointilliste artists used to take place on Mondays.
The painting by Vincent van Gogh of the Boulevard de Clichy at the head of this piece was painted when Vincent had just joined his brother Theo in March 1887, staying close by on the Rue de Laval and then from June in the Rue Lepic. Van Gogh was often at No. 62, the Café du Tambourin, where he gave the owner some of his earliest paintings in exchange for meals, and his first exhibition took place. and Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec and others also used to eat there.
When he first arrived in Paris in May 1901, Picasso lived in the 6th floor studio at No. 130ter until 1904 during his ‘blue period’. He later lived at No. 11 from 1909 to 1912; for the last five years of his life Edgar Degas (1834-1917) lived on the fifth floor of No. 6, where he died aged 83.
No. 4 used to be the anarchist bookshop belonging to Jules Erelbach, the man known as Ducret who was murdered by Léon Lacombe for allegedly betraying Garnier, one of the Bonnot gang in 1912. Victor Serge was later sentenced to five years imprisonment for his journalistic support for the gang.
In 1928 Jacques Prévert and his wife Simone lived at No. 64, the Hôtel le Radio. While there he wrote some of his first poems, and was visited by André Breton.
The Moulin Rouge was built in 1889 at No. 82-90 on the site of the White Queen ballroom, where Georges Clemenceau and Louise Michel both attended a big political meeting at the close of the Second Empire in 1870.
In the mid-1920s the Café Le Cyrano at No 82 became the headquarters of the surrealists around Breton.
In the 1950s, Fernand Léger set up an art school studio at No 104, where he taught with his second wife Nadia.
In the middle of the boulevard outside No. 122 there is the base of a statue of Charles Fourier (1772-1837). The utopian socialist thinker was sculpted by the anarchist Émile Derré but the statue was destroyed by the Germans in 1942 to be melted down for armaments
Leading up to the Saint-Lazare station built in 1837 the road was called du Havre in 1845 after the port in Normandy that the station served. The name was extended to include a section of the Rue de la Chaussée-d’Antin with its reference to the Duke of Antin whose town mansion was built there.
The earlier name had been changed during the French Revolution first to Rue Mirabeau le Patriote from 1791 to 1793 and then to Rue du Mont-Blanc from 1793 to 1816. With the Bourbon restoration it had gone back to Chaussée-d’Antin.
The odd numbers in the road are in the 9th arrondissement and the even numbers in the 8th.
Emile Zola was often seen walking in this road, since in 1897 he rented an apartment at No. 3 for Jeanne Rozerot, his mistress and mother of his two children.
At No. 8 the Lycée Condorcet, opened in 1803, in the relatively recent monastery of the Capucin monks built in 1780 and nationalised in the Revolution, is one of the four oldest secondary schools in Paris.
Besides three former presidents of the Republic, among the leftists who were educated there were Victor Schoelcher and Paul Verlaine, and much more recently Alain Krivine. Jaurès and Sartre both briefly taught philosophy there while Mallarmé taught English.
One of the ‘Great Boulevards’ in a wealthy part of Paris, it was built on the allotments outside the city when in 1670 Louis XIII’s wall around Paris was declared obsolete. Initially called the ‘New Boulevard’ and then the ‘Depot Boulevard’ (after the 1764 regimental arms depot there). It was finally named after the Italian Theatre built there in 1783 that is now occupied by the Comic Opera.
Even numbers are in the Ninth arrondissement, while odd numbers are in the Second.
From December 1919 to 1923 Louis Aragon and André Breton with other surrealists used to meet regularly in the Café Certà at No. 2. This address was in the ‘Passage de l’Opéra‘ – two parallel galleries of cafés and shops first built in 1822 and demolished in 1925.
The Mulhouse bar was based at No. 8. In March 1848 meetings of the German democratic association used to take place here, attended, among others by Karl Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach.
Ironically, on the other side of the Boulevard, at No. 9, in 1942 to 1943 the Vichy government tried unsuccessfully to recruit French workers to work voluntarily in Germany.
Arlette Laguiller, who became the first woman to stand for President of France as a candidate of the Trotskyist Lutte Ouvriere sect in 1974, led a strike and occupation in 1968 at the Credit Lyonnais headquarters at No. 19 in 1968. The building had been the first in Paris to be lit by electricity in 1876.
Louis Blanc lived above the Tortoni café at No. 22 for a period.
No. 30 was the site of a bomb left by the anarchistsAction Directe against the Israeli Leumi bank on 13 April 1985.
The street offers an extraordinary view, notes Hazan (WTP), of the Sacré-Coeur rising above the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church. No better reason, perhaps for Fénéon to host at Number 1, the editorial offices of La Revue Blanche, the first Georges Seurat retrospective just a few months after the painter’s early death aged 32.
Fénéon became La Revue Blanche’s editor in 1896 and committed it strongly to defending Dreyfus from 1897. He published many articles by Léon Blum, then a young lawyer who in his spare time reported on the trials taking place.
Fénéon, Zola, Proust, Sorel, Claude Monet, Emile Durkheim and Daniel Halévy were among the signatures organised from the offices of La Revue Blanche on 15 January 1898 to an early petition to reopen Drefyus’ trial.
No. 8 was the location of the picture gallery opened in 1863 by Alexandre Bernheim, who displayed the paintings of Gustave Courbet and Camille Corot, among others, and who was the organiser of Van Gogh’s first Parisan exhibition in 1901.
In 1872, after Courbet had spent 9 months in jail for his part in the Paris Commune, his work was rejected for display at that year’s Salon. The art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel then showed Courbet’s painting Fruits at the gallery he had opened at No. 16 in 1867.
The old street Rue d’Artois was renamed in 1897 after one of France’s most influential bankers, Jacques Lafitte (1767-1844). His first job was in the Perregaux Bank, whose international connections led it to become the bank of the French Revolution’s Committee of Public Security, and then financial advisers to Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 1814 Laffitte was asked to head up the Bank of France, which he did until 1820. In the July 1830 Revolution he was one of the most important figures aiming to thwart any move towards a new republic and instead to secure the crown for Louis-Philippe of the Orleans branch of the Bourbon family.
Laffitte became the president of the Chamber of Deputies which declared the throne vacant and that Louis-Philippe was the new king. Laffitte became both President of the governing council and minister of finance in November 1830. He lasted only until March 1831 when he resigned as it became clear that Louis-Philippe was going to try and maintain all the monarch’s power over government rather than move towards a parliamentary government system.
Named because it was an old road that headed towards Montmartre village where, legend had it, St Denis, the first Paris bishop, and his followers were beheaded. It was temporarily renamed the ‘Field of rest’ road (rue du Champ-de-Repos) from 1793 to 1806 at the moment during the French Revolution when the cult of Reason was on the rise.
Victor Schoelcher spoke at a meeting on February 4 1879 at the Paz gym at No. 34 about education reform.
An art gallery at No. 65 was owned by the antique dealer Père Soulier that was a meeting place for Spanish artists. In 1901 Picasso bought a Douanier-Rousseau painting there that he kept throughout his life.
Picasso was also a regular at the Café du Grand Hôtel des Deux Hémisphères at No. 79, along with Appolinaire and many others. The photograph above was taken in the 1900s looking southwards towards where the road crosses the Boulevard de Clichy.
For centuries before 1881 its name was the New Road of the Mathurins (rue Neuve-des-Mathurins) after a farm that had belonged to Mathurin monks who took the name of the 4th century martyr, Mathurin of Larchant. This Saint was very very popular in the Middle Ages, supposedly because of his prowess in healing madness and anxiety, and was the patron saint of clowns.
Daniel Stern, author of the History of the 1848 Revolution, was Marie d’Agoult. Under the July monarchy (1830-1848) she used to host a salon at No. 10 that was frequented, among many others, by Victor Hugo.
George Sand was living at the Florence private house at No. 26 with Baron Casimir Dudevant when she gave birth to her son, Maurice, on June 30 1823. At the time it was owned by the former head chef of Napoleon. It is now a 3-star hotel called George Sand.
The Michel Theatre founded by Michel Mortier was in the basement of No. 38.
The street was originally opened on land belonging to the Abbey and then named after the 17th century 43rd abbess of the Montmartre Abbey, Marguerite de Rochechouart de Montpipeau. It only began to be built up in the 18th century was then incorporated into Paris in 1863.
The same address welcomed the founding meeting of the Second International which Engels and others called., and set the objective of the 8 hour day for all workers This was on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, in 1889, and took place in the theatre at the address that, ominously, was called Fantaisies parisiennes.
Ben Bella was hidden by Algerian friends in the street in 1952 on his way to Switzerland.
Named after the three generations of the Taitbout family who successively became Clerks to the Paris Town Office from 1698 to 1775, the road was opened in 1773.
Louis Blanc lived 1842 to 1848 above the Tortini café at No. 2 that was founded by a Venetian migrant initially called Velloni as a cafe and ice-cream parlour in 1804 (sketched above in 1888). It was there that Blanc and his supporters, Louis Greppo, Théophile Thoré and Hippolyte Detours, met on May 14 1848 and decided not to participate in the following day’s protest demonstration against the new government’s refusal to support the Polish revolutionaries.
Many writers, musicians and artists lived at a creative colony of separate houses at No. 80 that was known first as the Cité des Trois-Frères and then as the Square d’Orléans. Rebuilt in classical style and finished in 1841, from 1842 to 1849 Frédéric Chopin lived in No. 9, while George Sand lived on the first floor of No. 5 from 1842 to 1847. The lovers were both visited by many of the period’s celebrities, including Leroux, Honoré de Balzac, Heinrich Heine, Eugène Delacroix, François Arago and the actress Marie Dorval.
A broad tree-lined road just to the south of the Farmers’ general tax wall, it was opened by a royal decree in 1833, and named after an early 18th century peer of the realm who had a rare reputation for honesty in his post as Prévôt des marchands de Paris (Paris’ Prefect for Commerce, the equivalent of today’s Mayor of Paris).
Its most remarkable building is a huge, historic secondary school, the Collège-lycée Jacques-Decour, where Lucie Aubrac was nominated to teach in 1946.
The school was originally founded in the 15th century as the Sainte-Barbe college of Paris University. Its current building was moved there by Haussmann and constructed between 1867 and 1876 on the site of the old Montmartre abattoir.
The name was changed in 1944 from Rollin (the name of an 18th century historian) to Jacques Decour, the resistance pseudonym of Daniel Decourdemanche (1910-1942), who had taught German at the Lycée since 1937.
Decourdemanche had joined the Young Communists and then Communist Party. His first book called Philisterburg after teaching in 1932-33 in Germany denounced the risks of nationalism and racism.
In 1817 under the Restoration the Rue Ferrand (after the landowner on which it was built in 1777) was renamed the Rue Laval after the 71-year-old aristocrat Abbess of Montmartre (Marie-Louise de Laval-Montmorency) executed on July 24 1794. In 1887 it took its present name to honour the composer and music teacher Victor Massé who had died three years earlier.
In the 1920s and 1930s, No. 6 housed the People’s Bookshop (Librairie Populaire) run by the Communist Party. You could buy not just books and pamphlets there, but also busts of great people, badges, red flags and also red liberty caps (Phrygian bonnets).
Close to Montmartre several artists had workshops and/or lived in the road. Edouard Manet had studied at Thomas Couture’s workshop at No. 23 in 1850. Pierre Bonnard lived at No. 18 in 1890. During his second stay in Paris Vincent van Gogh lived with his brother at No. 25 in March 1886. Berthe Weill had a gallery at that address too, where in 1901 she held a joint exhibition of paintings by André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and Henri Matisse. This was also where Diego Rivera opened his first solo exhibition on April 21 1914.
Maurice Ravel also lived in the street between 1880 and 1886 at No. 29, while Edgar Degas lived at No 37 from 1890 to 1912 with his workshop in the attic.