Saturday, September 27, 2014

Paris History: Maison d'Ourscamp

This lovely building in the Marais is home to a non-profit corporation that was formed in 1963 and was responsible for saving the Marais when the city of Paris planned to raze the district and carry out Le Corbusier’s monumental plan. 

I love Corbusier, but I’m so glad that Parisians joined to save both this building and many other in the Marais. The organization is staffed by volunteers who are knowledgeable and friendly. Some even speak better than passable English.

You’ll find an architectural gem here as you go up the stairs, noting both the staircase and the center timber of a staircase donated to them by someone restoring their home.   My guide told me that she had seen a complete staircase similar to this one n the Victoria and Albert museum in London. There are many recycled things here, Parisian homeowners donate items of historical and architectural interest, and Paris Historique uses them in its restorations.

The real treat here, though, is the cellar.  This former Cistercian abbey has a cellar that is slowly being restored by the students of the local school Compagnons du Devoir and others.  The ceiling is vaulted, the old well is visible, and there are many items of interest here including the metal bands used to support columns that began to crumble as the upstairs building got bigger and heavier in the 16th century. 
Also, behind a gate you won’t be able to go through, there are passageways into other cellars. My guide, Esther, told me that it’s possible that many abbeys in the area were linked by underground passageways. 

Finally, the bookshop is stocked with items about Paris History.  I found a map I had been searching for for years here, and though I paid a pretty penny and had to struggle to get it home in good form, the map itself was worth the trip for me.  The organization is run by volunteers and by donations. You can find out more about their work at the Paris Historique website Paris Historique.

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