The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Spot the Difference

Back last year some time, I posted a bunch of vintage postcard pictures of Lyon to accompany a post about hookers (oddly, according to sitemeter, one of the most-visited pages of this blog, after the one about Hitler's Benz). I find cityscapes and urban architecture fascinating, not so much in a Le Corbusier-idolizing way, but more in terms of a historical perspective--the ways in which historical and cultural changes affect the way cities are built.

So then-and-now photo books--you know, here's a picture of a New York street corner in 1895 and the same corner in 1995-- have always appealed to me, even if I'm not intimately familiar with the city (like New York). For some time I've had on my to-do list, down toward the bottom, "Take Place Republique photo", and Sunday morning on the way to the marche I actually had the presence of mind to take along my camera and a printout of the 1909 photo to find the correct spot.

Here's the result: compare and contrast. You'll probably want to click the photos to enlarge them. I had to stand a little further back than the original photographer did to get everything in frame--difference in camera format, I suppose--and it appears he was also standing on something--possibly the steps of the statue of Emperor Napoleon that was once here (it was once called Place Imperiale, and the street was Rue Imperiale).
  • Our building is second from right, and you can just see our living room at the corner of the building. There are so few people in the modern photo because it was taken at about 9AM Sunday morning. Ordinarily the street is jammed with pedestrians and cyclists, and the occasional delivery van nosing through the crowd.
  • The tram tracks are long gone (though one can see a tram from this line at the Musee Malartre).
  • The Place de La Republique fountain, the ugly lamppost, the trees and the benches date from the 1980s.
  • In the modern photo, you can see street lights mounted on the side of the buildings just above the second floor; I had assumed that they were quite old, and was surprised that they came after the earlier photo.
  • The spire at the far end of Rue de la Republique in both photos is the Ritz-Carlton on the far side of Place Bellecour.
  • The former piano shop is now an expensive Italian menswear store, and the Gaz de France office is now the French version of Lenscrafters.
  • The cross street, Rue Childebert (delineated by the row of posts in middle distance in current photo), has been narrowed to a single lane to accomodate a pedestrian access to the underground parking garage just out of frame to the left.
  • The hardware store (quincaillerie) advertised on the tram no longer exists; I checked.
  • The golden chicken atop the Pathe theater is in an early Deco style but was not present in 1909.

EDIT: Dad converted the color photo to B&W, did some cropping, and put the two photos together in the same JPEG for your one-click viewing pleasure.


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