Thursday, February 5, 2015

Paris from above: Printemps department store

While in Paris this past fall I visited the famous department store Printemps on the Boulevard Haussmann. Not for the reasons you think (shopping) but to check out the amazing 365 degree views of Paris from the rooftop restaurant!
Lunch was pretty good by American standards, sub-standard by Parisian, but no one could pay attention to their meals with all of Paris at their feet.
 Above you can make out the Eiffel Tower through the haze just beyond the Grand Palais.
 Above is La Madeleine which I blogged about HERE.
 There are just no bad views, a picture postcard in every frame.
Above is the roof of the Palais Garner, more commonly known as the Paris Opera House. I blogged about this magnificent building after one of my previous trips HERE and HERE.
The views of the Printemp's rooftop minarets are stunning in their own right. That shiny gilding must be recently applied!
Above you can barely see the hidden business district of Paris -leave those nasty tall, modern buildings out of sight!
 I love the multilayered roof of the apartment building across the street.
I have to admit I've never visited the Sacre-Coeur, this is the closest I have come.
 Nor the Eglise Saint-Augustin seen above.
The other rooftop views of Paris I love are from the top floor of the Musee d'Orsay. Even on a rainy day like in the image above and below -the views of the Seine and the Louvre are stunning.
 Paris, not only the city of lights but the city with no bad views!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hotel de Salm, Paris

One of my favorite buildings to visit on my walks around the city is the Hotel de Salm home to the Legion of Honour Museum next to the Musee d'Orsay along the banks of the Seine. I've never been inside however despite a rather fascinating collection and renowned building. There are simply always more pressing things to do or it's just too lovely of a day to spend inside.
Completed just before the revolution in 1782 for a German prince by the architect Pierre Rousseau it was soon taken over by the new government for use by the Legion of Honor. Rousseau's best-known work today is this building but he was really the starchitect of the day, first for the ancien regime and then the governments which were to follow.

The entry court probably looks familiar to you as it has been copied in many forms in public buildings around the world.
This rare floorplan above (from the book The Architecture of the French Enlightenment by Allan Braham) is situated with the Seine towards the top of the image, what many people now consider to be the 'front' of the building despite no entry.  The addition from the mid 1920s to the lower right now houses the main entry into the museum and other museum offices.

Very few tourists who visit the Musee d'Orsay (just to the right of the image above) know to turn the corner to catch a glimpse of the main entry and courtyard of the Hotel de Salm.
 I've always admired the 1920s quiet beaux-arts entry to the museum which faces the d'Orsay.
The interiors are quite spectacular and date to the rebuilding of the structure in 1871 when it was burned during the Commune. How  I would have loved to have seen the original! What is it with the French burning their heritage every few decades?
The main salon seen in the image above and below is the center of the river facade, obviously with water views.
The image below taken after the Commune shows the burned shell. In the background you can see the opulent Palais d'Orsay which was also burned during the Commune and eventually replaced with the train station which now houses the famous art museum.  The burned palace sat unused for 30 years, a daily reminder of the civil war.
The Hotel de Salm may be relatively obscure to the common tourist but has inspired many of our most beloved public buildings and been nearly replicated many times, most notably at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, seen below and at my previous post HERE, and also at the Chateau de Rochefort en Yvelines (a few images below).  It was one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite buildings, aspects of which he incorporated into his own home at Monticello.
The odd thing to me about the Legion of Honor in San Francisco is that the main facade of the original in Paris which faces the Seine and is most widely known, is actually the back of the museum in San Francisco which no one ever sees (below).
The museum should really provide a more landscaped courtyard to the rear of the museum to take advantage of the beautiful structure.
One really senses the similarity of the buildings most through these aerial views (the Chateau de Rochefort en Yvelines seen below).
The French book L'hotel de Salm published by Monelle Hayot further details the existing building and opulent interiors should you be interested.
Most images are not my own.  To see accreditation please refer to the image file names.

Monday, February 2, 2015

John Russell Pope's Morton house for sale

I recently discovered that the Levi Morton house (1912) by John Russell Pope in my old neighborhood in Washington, DC, was for sale. For about a decade I lived a block away from this stunning mansion at 1500 Rhode Island Avenue, NW and always admired it.
For the past 75 years the National Coatings Association has been the (excellent) caretaker of this historic structure which has housed a former Vice President, a Russian ambassador, and even Alexander Graham Bell.
If you are familiar with a map of Washington, the regular grid of streets is broken by a number of Avenues which meet at traffic circles;  this creates some odd triangular building sites. The Morton house is within one of these odd shaped lots which explains the strange angles in the first floorplan above.
The gracious porte cochere sits on the north side of the property on Rhode Island Avenue. Pope cleverly used the irregular slanted front facade for service spaces, situating larger and more important rooms around the more regular square facades. In 1912 these rooms faced gardens which are now (partially) parking lots.
The odd service wing in the floorplan which included storage and servant apartments either was never built or was torn down at one point for more parking. I always wondered if the stucco part of the building which you see to the left of the photo above was original and apparently it was. It looks different than the elevation drawing earlier in this post and rather like an after thought. It houses the original dining room and butler's pantry.
The  (west) side facade above is the most prominent as it faces Scott Circle and affords beautiful views.
As with many parts of the city the area has changed significantly since 1912 and this mansion is surrounded mostly by large apartment buildings and hotels which you get a sense of in the above photograph or on google streetviews.
This existing house was an extensive renovation to an older red brick Victorian structure dating from 1879 designed by John Fraser, a well-known Philadelphian architect. The interior was completely redone by Pope in a Classical style which included this stunning staircase which includes Levi Morton's monogram.
The original fixtures are all extant and included with the sale offered by Lucia Wadeson of Cresa Corporate Real Estate. I can imagine this becoming rather grand condo's with a significant addition or ideally an embassy (Cuba?).
 Images are not my own: B&W Photographs and drawings from the book "Mastering Tradition" by author James Garrison and color images from this article in the Washington Business Journal.