Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lindsay Lowend and the electrocuted dog

Last week we went to see Lindsay Lowend play at "La Bellevilloise". This venue, in the heart of Paris' 20th arrondissement, is three blocks away from where we used to live on the rue de l'Est so I know the neighborhood well.

"Un rond, c'est un carré qui a mal tourné", rue de l'Est
© Perry Tak - 08/2007 Les rues de Paris

We found a parking spot on the rue des Pyénées, right next to the Place du Guignier. A guignier is a kind of cherry tree although the only cherries I've ever seen in this place are in the stalls on market day.

place du Guignier - "Ceci n'est pas un Magritte"
© Jacques Deneux - 04/2009 Les rues de Paris
La Place du Guignier may seem calm and picturesque but for me it will always be:

The place of the electrocuted dog

after an incident that took place on Sunday, 27 January 2013. One of our neighbors, a middle-aged woman, owned a small, black, yappy dog. The dog would stand at the sliding glass windows on the second floor and bark incessantly at passersby, in particular at those accompanied by dogs which happened to be our case. That evening the neighboor took her dog for a walk in the square around the corner from the apartment. The weather had been damp, through a kind of "capillarity", some stripped wires electrified the metal manhole cover. When the small, black dog (yes, I know the photo accompanying the article shows a white dog but it is a stock photo, the dog was black), anyhow, when the tiny dog walked across the electrified manhole cover he received a discharge of about 180 volts. The woman tried to rescue her dog and she also received an electrical shock but she was not killed. It was, indeed, a rather tragic occurrence and one that certainly marked my memory. This story, however, did not impress the person accompanying me.

As usual, Lindsay Lowend's show was great...

 and I even got my picture with him!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Eiffel Daughter

In the town where I live there is a long-standing oral tradition that Gustave Eiffel worked on one or several of the villas along the esplanade. It is mentioned by a number of people and in a number of places. Some of these people and some of these places do not always apply the sobriquet "oral tradition", in the hope that — repeated a sufficient number of times — through iteration the oral tradition becomes verifiable fact. It is also said that Gustave Eiffel came here on vacation and that is totally possible, but design a villa? Eiffel was an engineer, not known for being an architect, and after the success of the "Tour" why would he want to do a balcony in a beach town, as tony as Mers may have been à la Belle Epoque? And exactly what villa is it?

Henri Rivière, "La Tour en construction, vu du Trocadèro" Musée d'Orsay

Inventaire Picardie

In a much earlier post on this blog I wrote about Edouard-Jean Niermans, a well-known, bona fide, architect that indeed did design a number of villas in Mers-les-Bains, one of them — named after his children — was built with the hope of providing the family with rental income:

Villa Jan et Villa Hélèna

Inventaire Picardie

Inventaire Picardie

Jan being this Netherlandish native's spelling of his son's name and Hélèna being his daughter.

Since moving here on a full-time basis I have become quite interested in researching the other architects who designed villas in Mers and whose work can be attested through written documentation, a non-negotiable requirement in my scholarly "déformation professionnelle" warped mind.

Théophile Bourgeois

Inventaire Picardie
There is, for example, Théophile Bourgeois from Poissy in the suburbs of Paris, the architect responsible for the villa "Bon Abri" in Mers and who also built a number of villas in the region, in the wooded development known as the "Bois de Cise."

Inventaire Picardie

from Les villas de Villennes et leur histoire

Monsieur Bourgeois published a catalogue describing all the different models of villas that he could build for his clients. The descriptions of the villas went into great detail regarding the prices of the various options offered in order to appeal to all budgets.

All this brings us back to Monsieur Eiffel and his connection to Mers-les-Bains.

Les Algues

The villa most often identified with Gustave Eiffel is called "Les Algues" (aka Seaweed…sounds so much better in French). Les Algues is a quite unprepossessing villa; its current state does not recall its former glory.

Les Algues ca. 2000 Inventaire Picardie

According to the inventory conducted in 2002 by Elisabeth Justome, Les Algues was built between 1896 and 1899 for Maurice Toussaint Legrain, an army officer living at 184 blvd Haussmann in Paris.

Les Algues ca. 1900 Coll. D. Cayeux
And M. Legrain just happened have been married to...Gustave Eiffel's second daughter, Laure Eiffel, thus, making M. Legrain, M. Eiffel's son-in-law. So, it is plausible that Gustave Eiffel came to visit his daughter on vacation at Mers-les-Bains. Now, whether or not he designed their villa is quite another story and one I cannot tell at this time without further research.

Anonymus, Laure Eiffel between 1883 and 1891, Musée d'Orsay