On a Sunday ride with my outdated pedal-starter moped, aimlessly putt-putting through the streets of Montmartre, I came across a peculiar building, unlike any of the others I had seen that day. It looked as if it were hundreds of years old …
Standing at the intersection of Rue Marcadet and Rue du Mont Cenis, it is a dusty building with graffiti tags and in need of a good clean. It has stood the test of time but clearly, it’s taken on many personalities behind those walls over many generations.
It was the last picture I would snap of the day and I raced home to get on Google. Alas, the peculiar building’s story was just as juicy as I had hoped. Let’s start with when it was built: 1771. It began it’s life as one of Montmartre’s famous mills for a porcelain factory. In the tower they ground stones to make the porcelain paste. Attached to the tower on the left was a cow barn where you could buy milk by the cup. Revolutionary turmoil and economic crises eventually saw the end of the porcelain factory and by the 1900s the building had been turned into a hotel/ restaurant, which brings us a little closer to what the building serves as today– a private swinger’s club!
Despite my suspicions that it might actually be abandoned today, come nightfall, behind its door with a dark red awning, is a different place altogether. This has been one of Paris’ clandestine voyeurism spots for several decades, first known as the Dungeon, then the Don Juan and now the Chateau de Lys. Having visited its ‘retro’ website, with photos of seedy decor; velvet drapery, plastic red sofas, fake chandeliers; and boasting a torture room reserved for regulars deep in the basement, it’s unfortunately not going to end up on my list of Paris suggestions…
Nevertheless, it prompted me to find more picture of Montmartre from another era and compare them with shots today. I found a wonderful Pinterest board compiling dozens of vintage photographs of Montmartre. I picked out a few favorites to compare. Let’s take a tour..
Rue Saint Vincent (then and now)
Le Château des Brouillards and allée des Brouillards around 1933 (then and now)
The windmills of Montmartre, taken in 1839 by Hippolyte Bayard. Today – many of the windmills have been lost but the 17th century Moulin de Galette where a family produced fresh bread still remains today and looks over a restaurant of the same name. (click photo to enlarge).
The Cabaret du Lapin Agile on rue des Saules, 1900. Still a cabaret to this day, where Picasso and pimps alike were once entertained by French songs and scantily clad women. Today (click to enlarge photo).
The surroundings of 21 rue du mont-cenis has drastically changed. (Click to enlarge the google earth photo).
Rue Muller around 1900, (click to enlarge google maps photo).
A housemaid leans over the balcony with a view of the Sacre Coeur in the distance. Photo by Puyo Constant, 1900.
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