Place Blanche

Arrondissement 18

A bustling square on the 1791-1860 northern boundary of Paris at the old tax gate into Paris to the south of the Montmartre hill. Its barricade in May 1871 involved fighter from the Women’s Union. Today it is home to Le Moulin Rouge that opened in 1889 and dozens of tacky strip bars and sex shops.

A century ago the Place Blanche already looked something like it does today

The Place Blanche (White Square) was named after a café called the ‘White Cross’. It got its name from the showers of white flour and gypsum whose mills and quarries often covered those working on and near the Montmartre hill.

A 1785 painting of the customs post at the Place Blanche gate in the recently-built Tax Farmers’ wall around Paris

The tax collectors’ building in the Farmers-General Wall at the Place Blanche was burnt down here on 11 July 1789 in a protest by quarry workers against the taxes on the carts they had to pay to enter neighbouring inner Paris. It was one of the many sparks that ignited in Paris three days later on July 14 1789.

The Farmers-General Wall of the Ancien Regime was built to tax Paris not to defend it as were the 13th and 14th century walls

The tax wall was first abolished by the Constituent Assembly in 1791 and in November 1793 32 of its wealthy tax collectors were arrested and 28 guillotined. After the tax wall’s reintroduction by the Directorate in 1798, it and its gates survived until 1860, when Montmartre was incorporated into Paris.

The Place Blanche tax gate photographed in 1855 before tax collections at the wall finally stopped in 1860

The halfmoon-shaped square was laid out in 1803 as La Place de la Barrière Blanche, and only became La Place Blanche in 1864.

The barricade with women defending the Commune at the Place Blanche in May 1871

On the morning of 23 May 1871 it was the site of a major battle at the barricade across the southern end of Rue Lepic. The barricade was defended by Elizabeth Dmitrieff, Nathalie Le Mel, Louise Michel and between fifty and 120 fighters from the Women’s Union for the Defence and Care of the Wounded of Paris.

The women fighters had already retreated from the Batignolles barricade, and after the Versaillais took this barricade they were then forced to retreat again to the next barricade at the Place Pigalle.

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