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PARIS STREET SIGNS

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Look up. At every street corner there is a sign on the building.

In the 1700’s, it was the responsibility of the owner on the corner. He was instructed to engrave a street sign on a stone tablet of particular dimensions. Then came the French Revolution and afterwards, in the 1790’s, all symbols of affiliation with royalty were to be scratched from the tablets. Thus a street name with Saint in it, was to have the Saint rubbed out.

Napoleon Bonaparte was especially keen to have a beautiful nameplate hung on the cornerpiece of all streets. Finally, in the mid-1800’s a porcelain plaque like the ones we see today, was manufactured out of porcelain. The plaques were ordered to be made of white numbers and letters, on an azure blue background, framed in green.

Some ancient streets are named for the abbey that dominated the neighborhood, or a particular merchant on that street, or a legend. If you can find the Rue Cloche Perce in the 4th arrondisement, just off of the Rue de Rivoli, you will see an example of the name inscribed upon an old stone tablet.

Every street name has a history. Avenue Foch was named for General Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), a brilliant World War One leader who was made Marshal of France. Rue Descartes was named after the great French philospher, Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Some streets signify historic events, and the origin of some remains a mystery.

As you stroll the streets, write down names that pique your interest and “google “ them later. Great events and great personages of France have had streets named for them and much history can be learned, simply by discovering the meaning of the sign.



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