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Paris 15 - Introduction
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Paris 15 - Introduction

Before becoming part of the Parisian prestige, the 15th was a multitude of small hostile islands, easily flooded. Then, space was prized for its minerals such as sedimentary rocks, like limestone, sand or clay. Then it became a religious territory, in which abbeys, churches and parishes developed. It was only in the 17th century that the 15th began to be populated, becoming a seigniory but also a hunting ground prized by the Condi and Condé family. The factories developed and the town gradually industrialized at the same speed as the royal factories of Louis XIV. The population grows more and more and industrialization integrates factories such as the Citroën factory. Also, the creation of the railways definitively integrates the 15th arrondissement in Paris. Today, the splendor of the 15th is represented by the Montparnasse Tower.

The XVth district

The history of the 15th arrondissement of Paris is mainly focused around the development of the village of Vaugirard and the plain of Grenelle, and dependent on the whims of the Seine.

Indeed, the river had low and submersible banks, gently sloping and regularly covered by floods that created ephemeral islands called Javel or Javiau. During the extremely important floods of 1658 and 1910, the river even returned to its primitive prehistoric bed.

Originally, alluvial sand, clay ("Vaugirard's tiles and bricks") and limestone (the "cliquart") were extracted from this area in the numerous existing clay pits (up to 35). This activity began to decline under the First Empire and stopped definitively during the annexation of 1860.

Until the Revolution, the territory of the future 15th arrondissement depended on the abbeys of St Germain des Prés and Ste Geneviève du Mont, who had been lords of the area since the year 558. It was quite late, in 1256, that a chapel and a rest home for the religious of St Germain were built, at the place called Valboitron, by Gérard de Moret. This locality was probably located at the level of the street Dombasle, around numbers 13 to 17.

This name of Valboitron was replaced at the end of the century by that of Valgirard, but remained until the 15th century. Around these two buildings, a small agglomeration of farmers was formed, developed and was even surrounded by walls in 1336 (between the streets Dombasle, Olivier de Serres and de Vaugirard). The whole area depended on the Parish of Issy until 1342, when the parish of Vaugirard was created.

The plain of Grenelle, very extensive, was a lordship mainly dependent on Ste Geneviève du Mont. Its name comes from Garanella, meaning garenne, or granella, a sandy plain. In the 18th century, still sparsely populated, it was used for hunting mainly by the Princes of Conti and Condé. The only existing buildings were the small castle of Grenelle (also called "Hôtel Craon"), the "Ferme", a group of barns, courtyards and houses around the current Place Dupleix, then, of course, the Hôtel Royal des Invalides, built by Louis XIV and, finally, the Royal Military School (1751/53). The latter became the owner of the complex until the Revolution.

These two towns developed over time, and first of all, that of Vaugirard, by far the oldest. It is a "village street" surrounded by fields, which develops along the road to Issy (rue de Vaugirard), and, around its church (Place Henri Rollet) and a little in the street Notre-Dame (rue Desnouettes). In 1717 the village reached 700 inhabitants and 1700 on the eve of the Revolution, while other houses were built around the road to Sèvres on Lecourbe street. At the same time, the Count of Artois created the Javel manufacture in 1777, intended for the manufacture of chemical products. In the same way, the creation of the Wall of the General Farmers in 1786-87 cuts the territory in two; it follows the Boulevards de Grenelle, Garibaldi, Pasteur and Vaugirard and is pierced by eight barriers; it generates the creation of numerous "outside the walls" guinguettes.

We must also mention a third, more modest village, the Hameau de Javel. Dependent on Ste Geneviève of the Mont, it is very sparsely populated and will remain so (barely 75 inhabitants in 1845), and will be illustrated only by the presence of a "guinguette" ("Du Moulin", because it is located next to the Javel mill of the early 17th century) and, above all, by the Manufacture created by the Count of Artois.

During the Revolution, the "camp de Grenelle" was set up; it was there that volunteer soldiers were gathered, but the place soon became a "perpetual cabaret". Similarly, on November 20, 1793, the " Party of Reason and Liberty " was organized in Vaugirard, which became " commune of JJ Rousseau ", as was the church of St Lambert, which became " Temple of Reason ". Finally, the castle of Grenelle, which had been transformed in January 1794 into a powder factory, was the site of a disaster: " the explosion of the Grenelle powder magazine ": on August 31 of the same year, the powder factory exploded, causing numerous victims.

A major speculative operation was launched under the Restoration: the creation of Beau-Grenelle; Ginoux, owner of 105 sandy and barren hectares of the Grenelle plain, sold the whole to the municipality of Vaugirard, and in particular to its town councillor Jean-Léonard Violet, on May 15, 1824. It was planned to build a luxury housing estate consisting of 12 streets, a square, a church and a theater, then, afterwards, a bridge, a port and a river station. Situated outside the Wall of the General Farmers, the fiscal situation of the allotment was obviously very favorable; in 1830, a new barrier was opened in the wall, the barrier of La Motte-Picquet. A big party to launch the works was given on June 27, 1824 by JL Violet himself, and these works were completed in 1859.

Vaugirard continued to develop: there were 6695 inhabitants in 1831 and 26223 in 1856; streets were opened to join the neighboring communes from 1841 (rue de la Procession, Dombasle, de l'Abbé Groult, du Chemin de Fer, Mademoiselle, ....). With its neighbor Grenelle, the town was gradually industrialized in the first half of the 19th century, especially since the Western Railway with its goods station has been in operation since 1840. Chemical factories (Bleach factory, Payen-Salmon factory and Delacretaz candle company), and metallurgical factories (A.Poli and the Cail factory) were set up, taking advantage of the cheap labor attracted by the development of the villages.

The fortifications of Thiers, built from 1841 to 1845, encompassed the three villages, which were finally and logically attached to Paris in 1860, like the 17 other communes of what was called the "little suburb" (communes integrated into the fortifications, but independent of Paris, from 1841 to 1860). This was despite the fierce resistance of the inhabitants of these communes.

The 15th arrondissement was thus created; it included Vaugirard, Grenelle and Javel, as well as a portion of Paris and the villages of Vanves and Issy.

Ten years later, it was the fall of the Empire and then the Siege of Paris (during which the 15th arrondissement was bombed throughout the month of January 1871) to lead to the Commune. During the communal elections of March 26, 1871, marked by the absence of a part of the population that had fled Paris and by the massive abstention of another part, the arrondissement sent three communal councillors, Langevin, Clément and Vallès.

From 1860, the rural aspect began to disappear; the boulevards were paved and, between 1863 and 1865, the Little Belt Railway, which crossed the district, was built. In addition, industrialization resumed its development after 1880, particularly with the installation of the Citroën factories . In addition, from 1900, many "post-Haussmannian" buildings are built, which completes the transformation of the appearance of the district.

Finally, very recently, from 1960 onwards, deindustrialization took place rapidly; a million square meters of industrial floor space was destroyed and replaced by a vast urban renewal plan covering 350 hectares, which was carried out by the Sema XV from 1961 onwards, and resulted in the disfigurement of the aesthetics of the entire area, particularly on the Front de Seine and in the area of the Montparnasse Tower

The XVth district street by street

The 15th arrondissement, whose official name is the "arrondissement de Vaugirard" is administratively divided into four districts:
  • Saint-Lambert (57th district of Paris),
  • Necker (58th district of Paris),
  • Grenelle (59th district of Paris),
  • Javel (60th district of Paris