Rue Vavin

Arrondissement 6

Numbers 10, 16-17, 21, 26, 45, 50

Built in 1831 on an old path called the ‘Passage de l’Ouest‘ and owned by Alexis Vavin, a lawyer who became a politician and moved from being a liberal in the 1840s to becoming a monarchist in 1849, the street now runs from the Luxembourg Gardens to cut across the Boulevard Raspail and end on the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

An architectural draughtsman, Eugène Chemalé (1838-?), a mutualist and supporter of Proudhon, lived at No. 10. He was elected to the Paris committee of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) established in France in January 1865. At its first 1866 congress held in Geneva, he successfully opposed giving the State authority to educate children, unless their father could not do it. In February 1868 he was arrested and fined for participating in an illegal organisation.

During the Bloody Week of May 1871 a barricade was built and defended for two days against the Versaillais troops between Nos. 16 and 17. On 23 May, when forced to reteat, the Communards blew up their stock of ammunition.

Living in the Hotel Danemark in an exceptionally cold winter in 1940-41 gave more heat than Simone de Beauvoir’s grandmother’s flat.

After Sartre was called up in October 1939, Simone de Beauvoir moved to the Denmark Hotel at No. 21. Along with many other Parisians she fled the city in June 1940 and, after spending July to September back in her grandmother’s flat in the Avenue Denfert-Rochereau, she returned to the Danemark there during the harsh winter of 1940-41 because it provided a little heat.

This 1941 photograph shows the original step-like 1926 building at No 26 Rue Vavin that was declared an Historical Monument in 1975. It was designed by Charles Sarasin and Henri Sauvage, the leading art nouveau and modernist architect..

One of the few Communards with extensive military experience, the Polish General Jaroslaw Dombrowski (1836-1871) who was mortally wounded on the Rue Myrha barricade on May 23, lived at No 45. He too was a member of the IWMA. He had been given command over the Commune’s defences on the right bank.

The American leftist feminist and journalist, Louise Bryant, who married John Reed in 1916, and covered the Russian Revolution and aftermath, died in No 50. on January 6 1936.