Before the mall was the department store. Before the department store was the “covered passage”, which allowed shoppers to get out of the weather and the dirt (and open sewage) of the busy streets, and to shop for different goods in one protected area. What a relief that must have been for the women in their long dresses and button-up shoes!
My friend and I spent a nice afternoon exploring a few of the dozen or so remaining passages couvertes in the second and ninth arrondissements. These arcades were built in the late 18th century, and some are in better condition than others. Even the more run-down, however, offer a glimpse of their previous beauty. The arched glass ceilings, tiled floors, and lovely old light fixtures must have been such a luxury for those shoppers of yore. Today the shops in these passages consist largely of antique bookstores, restaurants, tea shops, art galleries, toy shops, and the occasional souvenir store.
The best-preserved of the passages we saw was the Galerie Vivienne, 4 rue Petits Champs, built in 1823.
The floor of this gallery was just gorgeous.
Thanks to this talented Italian artist who was kind enough to leave us his mark.
I wanted to run my fingers over these lovely old steps, worn down and smoothed out by years and years of feet.
The arcade was lined with restaurants, boutiques, and bookstores. This antique bookstore, Librairie Jousseaume, is the longest surviving tenant, having opened at the same time as the gallery.
Passage des Panoramas is the oldest surviving arcade, originally built in 1799. It also has the distinction of being the first building in Paris to have been equipped for gas lighting.
Galerie Jouffroy, built in 1845, showed off the new 19th century mastery of iron structures, and was the first Paris passage built entirely out of glass and iron.
Passage Verdeau was built as an extension of Passage Jouffroy in 1847.
Our final stop was the Passage du Grand Cerf.
Sadly, the only picture I took that wasn’t too dark was of the floor. Oh well.
It was a very pretty arcade, and I’m sorry that you will just have to take my word for that. Or better yet, go see it for yourself.
I hope that you enjoyed your afternoon of shopping. And you didn’t even have to drag your skirt in the muck.