1900 Paris World's Fair, the Petit-Palais' genesis

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The entrance - ©Anecdotrip.com / CC-BY-NC-SA The entrance - ©Anecdotrip.com / CC-BY-NC-SA
Petit Palais Museum

Do you see the Petit and the Grand Palais? Two beautiful remains of the 1900 Universal Exhibition! Let’s see this... It was "an intimate gathering with the representatives from all nations", says the French newspaper Le Figaro in April 1900. On the theme of "the century assessment", we had here the most amazing exhibition ever organized in France.

People came here to be impressed! To discover the whole world gathered in Paris. Inaugurated on April 14th 1900, the Exhibition stretched out on 215 hectares. 50 millions visitors came during several months. You know what?

Paris kept remains from this Exhibition, raised for the occasion: the Petit and Grand Palais, of course, but also Orsay and Lyon train station, Invalides and Alexandre-III bridge. And of course, subway! A big novelty, at that time. A modern transport inaugurated in July 1900: thank you, mister Fulgence Bienvenue!

The Breton inspector of the Civil Engineering just created the current line 1... And imagine river Seine banks completely stuffed with multicolours houses, with towers, onion domes, variegated pinnacle turrets... those were the national detached houses, financed by each invited country!

Near the Seine, they also rebuilt half-timbered houses and churches bell-towers. Oh, there was the Grande Roue, too (Big Wheel). Not the first one in the world, but the biggest one! Made of steel, it was more than 100 metres in diametre and it weighed about 650 000 kg. Some of the 40 baskets even housed restaurants.

And if you were tired of the visit, no problem: you had the rue de l’Avenir, a moving banister! You could stroll along in Paris effortlessly: it began near the Champ de Mars and passed by the Champs-Elysées and the Invalides. Whoa, a pretty nice invention! This banister had 3 floors: a fixed one and the two others at 4 et 8 km/h.

What about the Petit Palais? The building works began in October 1897. Charles Girault, architect for the Government, raised it on the exact site of the former Palais de l’Industrie, put up for the 1855 Universal Exhibition.

The site ended in April 1900, exactly for the Exhibition inauguration. The Petit Palais was used as a Decorative Arts museum. In 1902, 2 years after the end of the Exhibition, Paris city decided to transform the Petit Palais into a Fine Art museum.


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