Georges-Eugène Haussmann: Did he create a city or destroy one? Haussmann's restructuring of Paris remains a feat that inspired infrastructure and city planning for years to come.

The streets of Paris before (left) and after (right) Haussmann's renovations. The new design featured wide boulevards with "star" shapes.

Haussmann was born in Paris on 27 March, 1809, in a house later destroyed as part of his revival of Paris. He studied law while pursuing music at Paris conservatory. In 1831, he began his career in public administration. Napoleon III, interested in renovating Paris, was deeply impressed by Haussmann and hired him to formally head the project in 1853. Haussmann kept the post until 1870.

RUE SAINT-DENIS, revised. The new road was significantly wider and straighter than the previous roads throughout the city, a characteristic of Haussmann's Paris. Napoleon III ordered Haussmann to make the streets "revolution-proof" by making them harder to barricade off.
Rue d'Opera, a main boulevard leading from the palace to the Opera. Much of the city was based on this street, and the view is an extremely evocative one as "Haussmann's Paris."
“Paris is an immense workshop of putrefaction, where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate. Paris is a terrible place where plants shrivel and perish…”

Before Haussmann's renovations, Paris was a city that had not caught up to the age of progress. It was dank, overcrowded, full of both sickness and crime. Haussmann radically improved the standards of living for much of the population. The effort to improve the quality of life was partially prompted by the collapse of building into sinkholes throughout the city. When the nobility's houses started to collapse as well, progress was necessary.

Haussmann's renovations created sewers and brought clean water to Paris. Part of his mission was to "make Paris grand" which applied to the sewers as well, as there were decorations inside the sewers themselves.
There was considerable criticism of Haussmann's work. He spent about 2.5 billion francs on the project and completely altered the city, causing a "disconnection" for many of its inhabitants. The social climate in Paris was destroyed along with the streets, and citizens were increasingly disconnected from each other.

Haussmann created a new system to properly finance the project. He did end up spending about 2.5 billion francs, but he managed to create a system of bonds where he could hire private firms to complete the construction, like the Pereire Brothers.

The Pereire Brothers, founders of Crédit Mobilier, a French bank that helped finance much of the renovations. They were a tremendous force throughout Europe.

At Haussmann's request, Napoleon III passed laws from 1850-1851 making it easier for the government to expropriate property, which helped save a lot of money. The government now had the access to renovate not only the streets, but the building sites as well. They would expropriate the sites, paying the owners a fixed price, and then sell the property to a company like that of the Periere Brothers.

Haussmann managed to make all of these improvements in just 17 years. During those decades, the city was in a constant state of rebuilding.

Baron Haussmann, visionary of Paris.

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