Numbers 61, 71, 128, 140b
Opened only in the mid-19th century, the road’s name derives from its leading to the railway station, the Gare de Rennes (now renamed Paris-Montparnasse), whose trains traveled to Brittany.
Haussmann‘s original design was to extend it to the Seine, but because this would have involved knocking down the prestigious French Institute and creating a giant X at the eastern end of the île de la Cité it never happened. The road’s numbering thus only starts at 41 and 48 just south of the boulevard Saint-Germain. Its buildings mainly represent the classical Haussmann-Second Empire style, while No. 140b is attributed to Gaudi and Ausher in the Art nouveau style, and dated 1904.
During the Paris Commune the offices of one of the most successful daily newspapers, le Cri du Peuple , whose contributors included Gustave Courbet, were based at No. 61. It printed up to 100,000 copies and published 82 issues between 22 February and May 23 1871. Initially banned on March 11 it was reissued on March 21 and then continued daily until the ‘bloody week’ at the end of May.
Jules Vallès, its editor in 1871, returned from exile in 1880. The journal was given a new lease of life between 1883 and 1889 by Vallès and Séverine (Caroline Rémy), with Jules Guesde. One of its first articles describing students as ‘idot children of a rotten bourgeosie’ led to students demonstrating outside the offices.
In 1919 Simone de Beauvoir‘s family moved into No 71, a small sixth floor flat without a lift and without running water. She lived here until 1929.
There is no plaque in the street for her. But at No 128 there is one for Colonel Robert Fouré (1875-1945). He was retired after the June 22 1940 armistice and at the end of 1940 made contact with the new clandestine Socialist/SFIO resistance. This initially produced a Libération-Nord underground newspaper, and then in November 1941 it moved into organised resistance.
Between the end of 1943 and May 17 1944, Fouré was its military head. Arrested by the Gestapo he was deported to Buchenwald and died at its offshoot, the Mittelbau Dora concentration camp a few days after the arrival of US troops in April 1945.
Another plaque at the Art Nouveau No. 140bis rue de Rennes was laid by President
François Mitterrand to remember the seven killed and 55 wounded by a bomb planted in a dustbin outside the Tati shop there. This was the last, and the most dangerous, of the ‘Black September’ 14 bombings. These were claimed by a Lebanese Hezbollah-linked group aiming to secure the release of three of their jailed members and to stop France supporting Sadam Hussein in the Iraq invasion of Iran.