Cross-Sections of Paris Buildings from the 1800s

Being a tourist does not guarantee you free entry to the local residents’ homes in a city you visit, and that holds for time travellers too. And that’s exactly where these historical cross-sections come in.


In eighteenth century Paris, inequality began in relation to space. The city’s northwest neigbourhoods were generally inhabited by the wealthy, and the northeast ones by the proletariat. But the classes were not only divided horizontally, but vertically as well, and the above image illustrates this point. According to France in the Age of Miserables, this illustration:

“appeared in 1845 in a Parisian newspaper, and is a cross section of a typical apartment. On the ground floor, servants are going about their work and an elderly couple are dancing to music played on a piano by a young girl. On the first floor, two aristocrats lounge in the lap of luxury. One should note the balcony on this level as well, which was characteristic of the buidligns designed in the 1820’s buiding boom. On the second floor, a middle bourgeoisie family lives comfortably, if a bit crowded. On the third floor, the rooms are smaller. In the room on the left, a man appears to be being evicted. In the room on the right, a less wealthy elderly couple entertain themselves with a small dog. The fourth floor is divided into three rooms. In the leftmost, two bohemians are celebrating. Next door, a young man sits, with an umbrella to protect himself from leaks in the ceiling. In the far right room live a poor man and woman with three hungry children. A staircase going through the whole building also shows a progression of wealth, with only a cat walking up the last flight.”

For comparison, here’s a similar cross-section of a Parisian building that appeared in Le Magasin Pittoresque in 1883.


It looked a bit like the Printemps Department Store in the same city two years later (that is, in 1885):



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