Hôtel de Ville, Paris's city hall, is the center
of political Paris. Like Paris, it has had a turbulent
history. Until 1141 when water merchants created the
port de Grève (Shore Harbour) to relieve Paris's
busy port, the site was merely a shingle beach.
The square near the harbour was known as the 'place
In 1246 the first municipality was created when the
Parisian trade guilds elected aldermen as representatives
towards the King. It wasn't until 1357 when one of
the Aldermen, a water merchant, bought a house near
the place de Grève. The two-storeyed building featured
two towers and arcades. Known as the House of Pillars,
it served as the predecessor of the city hall. A new
Hôtel de Ville in Renaissance style was built between
1553 and 1628. It was enlarged in 1803 and again in
A revolting Commune which had occupied
the Hôtel de Ville for months set the building on
fire in May 1771, destroying the valuable city archives.
Shortly after the Commune was defeated by royalist
forces, the city government held a competition for
a new city hall. The architects Théodore Ballu and
Edouard Deperthes won this competition with their
proposition to reconstruct the Hôtel de Ville in its
original style. Funded by a national subscription
the construction started in 1882. Eight years later,
the new Hôtel de Ville was officially inaugurated.
The building is decorated with 108
statues, representing famous Parisians. 30 Other statues
represent French cities. The clock at the central
tower is adorned with several feminine sculptures
representing the Seine River, The city of Paris, 'Work'
The interior of the city hall is decorated
in a pompous IIIe Empire style. Noteworthy are the
large staircase, the long Salle des Fêtes (ballroom),
the painted ceilings and walls, the stained glass
windows and the numerous chandeliers.
From 1310 on, the Place de Grève was
the square were most of the executions in Paris took
place. Here people were beheaded, quartered, cooked
up or burned at the stake. In 1792, a guillotine was
installed. It would prove itself useful during the
French Revolution. The last execution took place in
1830, after which the square was renamed Place de
l'Hôtel de Ville. It was enlarged by Haussmann to
its current size. In 1982 the large square became
a pedestrian zone.
The Hôtel de Ville is situated in
the 4e arrondissement, near the Seine River. It is
not far from the Centre Pompidou (north) and the Notre-Dame
(south) across the pont d'Arcole.