University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Gans, Charles
The workingman's dwelling in France,   pp. 367-377 PDF (3.9 MB)


Page 369


WORKINGMAN'S DWELLING
buildings into which one penetrates by 'a
narrow alley, damp and dark, closed by a
gate. At the very entrance one is stifled by
a mixture of nauseating odors. Advancing
with uncertainty in the gloom, one stumbles
upon the first steps of a decayed staircase.
Often, one cannot reach these halls without
first passing through the shop of a wine-
seller. In some instances, the entrance is
wide, but gives into a court containing all
the closets of the house, and into which flows
the polluted water which has served domestic
purposes, while here also the artisan tenants
ply their various trades: all of which influ-
ences burden the air with reeking odors and
germs of disease. Finally, if one succeeds
in penetrating into the separate lodgings,
one notes that they are almost all composed
of a single room, in which an entire family
is confined. This observation is corrobo-
rated by the tables prepared in 1891 by Dr.
Bertillon, which show that 28,475 families
of three persons, 10,479 families of four,
3,462 of five, 1,161 of six, and 504 of more
than seven individuals, were occupying in
Paris lodgings consisting of a single room.
In the provinces, the same-sometimes even
worse-conditions   obtained.   Therefore,
one can readily conceive that against such
evils the first struggle was instituted.
  "I regard the enterprise of constructing
cheap dwellings," said the celebrated econo-
mist, Jules Simon, "as the most worthy that
can be undertaken. I regard it as a work
of life-saving among morally abandoned
children. The family must everywhere be
reconstructed. We say to the workman
who labors hard, who exercises an exacting
trade: 'Stay at home after your day's work.
Take your recreation in your own lodgings!'
But what are these lodgings? What is this
room in which air does not circulate, light is
wanting, smoke stifles the occupants, and
vile odors pursue them; in which the entire
family-father, mother, children of differ-
ent sex, well and ill, large and small, grovel
together in a promiscuousness dangerous
alike for health and morals ?"
   To the men of high purpose who resolved
to accomplish this task, a single, practical
means was offered in Paris and the large
cities. It was necessary to construct large,
economical and well-arranged buildings in
which each family might secure at a low
rent two well ventilated rooms. This enter-
prise was the beginning of the Working-
man's Dwelling (maison ouvri~re). It was
already a step in advance, but yet only a
single stage, on the long route which was
then projected.
   The idea of the Workingman's Dwelling
was not wholly new. The Emperor Napo-
leon Third who, having at once fear and
need of the working classes, ordered the con-
struction of lodgings destined for them. A
number of such houses were therefore built
on the Boulevard Mazas, in the Rue Roche-
chouart, and on the Boulevard des Bati-
gnolles. They were of immense size and
were let at rentals within the means of all
purses. But the question of finding tenants
for them became a serious one, since work-
ingmen refused to enter them. They felt
a deep aversion toward living in these great
houses of which the exteriors, resembling
barracks, repelled them almost as much as
the fear of being constantly under the sur-
veillance-then so severe-of the police
authorities. The Emperor's project was
necessarily abandoned.
  The workingman of the present day can
not experience the same fear from the polit-
                                      369


Go up to Top of Page