Number 11bis, 20, 20bis, 21, 26, 31
Crammed full of smallish theatres since 1818, when the Montparnasse Theatre first opened its doors, the road ran along the outside of the Farmers’ General tax wall. This made it a good location to drink wine that was not subject to the Paris tax, and the numbers of music halls, theatres and restaurants that sprang up gave it its name. It was absorbed into Paris in 1863.
Sometimes political meetings were held in the cafés in the street. Gustave Courbet and many of Paris’ bohemian intellectuals and artists used to drink at the Café des Mille Colonnes, next to Bobino at No. 20bis, in the 1860s. On December 17 1904 all the Russian revolutionary groups in Paris met there together.
During 1870-1871 the dance hall, Bal du Jardin de Paris, at No. 21 was used to hold 30 public political meetings.
The Montparnasse Theatre you now see at No 31 was rebuilt in 1886 and is on the list of historic monuments. It staged the Paris premier of Berthold Brecht’s ‘Threepenny Opera’ (l’Opéra de Quat’sous) in 1928.
The writer Simone de Beauvoir spent the academic year of 1936-1937 based at the hotel then named Royal-Bretagne living there with Sartre when he was in Paris at No. 11bis. Today, this art-deco hotel has another name and looks more upmarket than it did in the 1930s.
Nearly opposite De Beauvoir’s hotel was the famous Bobino music hall at No. 20, sadly demolished in 1985 and turned into a Mercure hotel with a new Bobino now at the back. De Beauvoir and Sartre saw two singers there in 1932, singing anarchist and anti-militarist songs.