Georges Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891)
Georges Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891) was the prefect of the Seine from 1853 to 1870. He was put in charge of Paris' public works projects by Napoleon III, who wanted to modernize the city. The capital was in desperate need of renovation: archaic amenities, deplorable standards of hygiene and medieval streets that inhibited traffic flow and made popular uprisings impossible to control. Rambuteau, Haussmann's predecessor had already introduced a policy of urban renovation, but Haussmann benefitted from an Imperial intent which gave him far greater power to act. He had new wide streets cut through the city and squares and numerous parks (such as Buttes Chaumont and Montsouris) were laid out. The new Paris was given railway stations, theatres and churches. In order to create the new routes and amenities (water, sewers and gas), the State took out loans after expropriating and clearing the plots of land to be renovated, and then sold the lots to private entrepreneurs who were encouraged to rebuild in a consistent architectural style. Thus the Haussmann style spread across the buildings' facades. Persigny, the Minister of the Interior, took care of the financial arrangements with the assistance of the Pereire brothers. These enormous public works remained the subject of controversy and the debts which resulted from the system used to finance them were fiercely criticized. Furthermore, the monotony of the architecture was not appreciated by those who felt nostalgic for the old Paris. Nevertheless, Haussmann succeeded in modernizing the capital, and it became the fashion for the bourgeoisie of the Second Empire to stroll along the "grands boulevards" - an iconographic image immortalized by the painters of the late 19th century.