Friday, October 09, 2009

Fontaine du Palmier

The building of monumental fountains was interrupted by the French Revolution; the Place Louis XV was renamed Place de la Revolution, and the guillotine was placed near where the fountains were to have been built. The supply of water and the building of fountains became a subject of prime concern for the new First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, beginning in 1799.

Napoleon asked his Minister of the Interior, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, what would be the most useful thing he could do for Paris, and Chaptal replied, "Give it water.". In 1802 Napoleon ordered the construction of the first canal bringing water from a river outside the city, the canal d'Ourcq.

The canal was built by Napoleon's energetic Chief Engineer of Bridges and Highways and head of his service of water and sewers, Pierre Simon Girard, who had served with him on his campaign in Egypt. Girard's grand projects included the Canal Saint-Denis (finished in 1821), the Canal d'Ourcq (finished in 1822), the Canal Saint-Martin (finished in 1825) which brought enough water for both drinking fountains and decorative fountains.

While his engineers were building canals to bring water to Paris, Napoleon turned his attention to the fountains. In a decree issued May 2, 1806, he announced that it was his wish "to do something grand and useful for Paris." and proposed building fifteen new fountains.

He also ordered the cleaning, repair or rebuilding of the many old fountains which had fallen into ruin, such as the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons and the Medici Fountain. His engineers built new fountains in the city's major outdoor markets, and installed several hundred bornes-fontaines, simple stone blocks with a water tap, all over the city. In 1812, he issued a decree that the distribution of water from fountains would be free, and anyone who speculated in drinking water would be severely punished

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