Place des États-Unis
|Length||200 m (660 ft)|
|Width||60 m (200 ft)|
|Denomination||16 August 1881|
The Place des États-Unis (French pronunciation: [plas dez‿e.taz.y.ni], "United States Square") is a public space in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, France, about 500 m south of the Place de l'étoile and the Arc de Triomphe.
It consists of a plaza, approximately 140 metres long and thirty metres wide, tree-lined, well-landscaped, and circumscribed by streets, forming a pleasant and shady vest-pocket park. The park is officially named Square Thomas Jefferson, but buildings facing it (on three sides) have Place-des-États-Unis addresses. The eastern end of the square, however, is capped by the Avenue d'Iéna and a confluence of streets known as the Place de l'Amiral de Grasse. These streets, all of which lead to the eastern end of Place des États-Unis, are the Rue Freycinet, Rue de Lübeck, Rue de Bassano, and the Rue Georges Bizet.
Other streets entering the Place des États-Unis include: the Rue de l'Amiral d'Estaing, which enters from the south; the Rue Galilée, which transits the western end of Square Thomas Jefferson; and the Rue Dumont d'Urville which enters the northwestern corner.
The area around the Place des États-Unis was created by the destruction of the old Passy water reservoirs. (They were reconstructed in 1866 on higher ground, in the triangle formed by three streets: Lauriston, Paul Valéry, and Copernic, about two hundred metres to the west-northwest.) The Place des États-Unis was originally called Place de Bitche to honor a village in the Moselle department in northeastern France that valiantly resisted a Prussian invasion during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
The square's name was changed when Levi P. Morton, the American ambassador, saw fit, in 1881, to establish his residence and his country's embassy there after abandoning unsuitable offices a few blocks away at 95, Rue de Chaillot. The similarity between the name of the Moselle village (Bitche) and the slightly off-color English word, bitch, made the Americans uncomfortable, so the chargé d'affaires prevailed upon the préfet for the Seine department to change the name to something less risible. The French official arranged for the name, Place de Bitche, to be transferred to another site in the 19th arrondissement, near the Pont de Crimée, and rechristened the square outside Mr. Morton's legation, Place des États-Unis.
The Statue of Liberty
On 13 May 1885, a bronze model of the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Bartholdi was erected in the center of the Place des États-Unis, directly in front of the American diplomatic mission. Purchased by the Committee of Americans in Paris and offered to the City of Paris, the model was a fund-raising tool, displayed with the aim of inspiring support for the building of the full-sized statue and its transport across the Atlantic. The model remained in place until 1888.
Statue of Washington and Lafayette
Famed publisher, Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911), impressed by the work Bartholdi had done in executing the Statue of Liberty, commissioned him to produce another statue, one emblematic of the French-American friendship. The subject matter, General George Washington and Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, comrades-in-arms during the American Revolutionary War, was an easy choice. The sculptor designed the bronze statue, which depicts Washington and Lafayette on a marble plinth, clothed in military uniforms, shaking hands; the French and American flags serve as a backdrop. Dedicated in 1895, the statue was installed in the Place des États-Unis. A few years later, Charles Broadway Rouss, the New York City department-store tycoon, purchased an exact replica of the Washington-and-Lafayette statue which he donated to the people of New York City for placement in Morningside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.
Monument to Horace Wells
The Place des États-Unis (Square Thomas Jefferson) is the site of a monument to the American dentist, Horace Wells (1815–1848), who was a pioneer in the use of anesthesia. The monument was dedicated on 27 March 1910 during the tenth session of the FDI World Dental Federation, which was then known as the Fédération dentaire internationale. On the right side of the base of the monument, the sculptor, René Bertrand-Boutée, incised the medallion of the physiologist, Paul Bert, who was also an early experimenter in anaesthetics, respiration, and asphyxia.
Memorial to the American volunteers
On 4 July 1923, the President of the French Council of State, Raymond Poincaré, dedicated a monument in the Place des États-Unis to the Americans who had volunteered to fight in World War I in the service of France. The monument, in the form of a bronze statue on a plinth, executed by Jean Boucher (1870–1939), had been financed through a public subscription. Boucher had used a photograph of the soldier and poet, Alan Seeger, as his inspiration, and Seeger's name can be found, among those of twenty-three others who had fallen in the ranks of the French Foreign Legion, on the back of the plinth. Also, on either side of the base of the statue, are two excerpts from Seeger's "Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France", a poem written shortly before his death on 4 July 1916. Seeger intended that his words should be read in Paris on 30 May of that year, at an observance of the American holiday, Decoration Day (later known as Memorial Day):
They did not pursue worldly rewards; they wanted nothing more than to live without regret, brothers pledged to the honor implicit in living one's own life and dying one's own death. Hail, brothers! Goodbye to you, the exalted dead! To you, we owe two debts of gratitude forever: the glory of having died for France, and the homage due to you in our memories.
(Also see the article entitled, Lafayette Escadrille, for more information about Americans fighting on behalf of France during World War I.)
Notable buildings in the Place des États-Unis
- No. 1, Place des États-Unis: the embassy of Kuwait. Originally the townhouse of the Countess Roza Branicka (1863–1941), this place was also a gathering-place for Polish immigrants at the beginning of the twentieth century.
- No. 2: The Ephrussi Mansion. Constructed in 1886 by Ernest Sanson for the banker, Jules Ephrussi (1846–1915). In 1922, it was acquired by the Egyptian king, Fuad I, whose eventual fall from power prompted the successor government, the Republic of Egypt, to seize it for use as the residence of its ambassador to France.
- No. 3: Here, the American ambassador, Levi Morton, established his residence and, for a brief period, the offices of the entire American legation. The American novelist, Edith Wharton, also lived here for a time.
- No. 3B: Embassy of Bahrain. This small brick-and-stone building was built for Olga von Meyendorff (1838–1926) before becoming the home of the painter, Théobald Chartran, and his wife, Sylvie. The Chartrans' place was the haunt of artists, writers, and politicians.
- No. 4: The Deutsch de la Meurthe Mansion. Originally constructed for the industrialist and aviation pioneer, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe (1846–1919), this building was, during World War II, occupied by the Gestapo. Beginning in the late 1940s, it was the residence of Francine Worms-Weisweiller (1916–2003), a descendant of the Deutsch de la Meurthe family, who was the patron of Jean Cocteau, and her husband, the American financier, Alec Weisweiller.
- No. 6: Former home of Prince Alexander Bariatinski (1870–1910) and of the princess who was born Catherine Alexandrovna Yurievskaya (1878–1959), the daughter of Czar Alexander II of Russia. Today, it is a showroom for the wares of the crystal-maker, Arc International, formerly known as Cristallerie d'Arques
- No. 7: A building constructed on the site of the townhouse Ida Rubinstein, the dancer and patron of the arts, moved into in 1921. Nothing is left of her home, which was designed and decorated by the great Léon Bakst. The Nazis seized her valuables during their World War II occupation of Paris. Whether the house was razed as an act of wanton destruction or whether it came down under other circumstances is unclear; sources vary.
- No. 8: This attractive private house belonged, at the beginning of the twentieth century, to M. Saint-Paul, an influential counselor of state. Then it housed the renowned literary salon of the poet, Edmée de La Rochefoucauld (1895–1991), a cultivated environment often referred to as the waiting room for the prestigious French Academy.
- No. 10: The De Brantes Building, presently occupied by lawyers' offices.
- No. 11: The Bischoffsheim Building, also called the De Noailles Building, was constructed in 1895 by Ernest Sanson for the financier, Raphaël-Louis Bischoffsheim (1823–1906), and subsequently occupied by his granddaughter, the Viscountess Marie-Laure de Noailles (1902–1970), who provided there a haven for artists and writers. Madame de Noailles supported artistic luminaries such as Jean Cocteau, Luis Buñuel, and Man Ray. She lived at the Place des États-Unis from age eighteen until her death in 1970. During her tenure there, she was renowned for throwing exquisite parties and cultural soirees where the guest list often included the likes of Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Picabia, Balthus, Henri Matisse, and Salvador Dalí. The house later belonged to the Syrian-born Saudi arms dealer, Akram Ojjeh, then to his widow, Nahed, who sold it to the crystal-maker, Baccarat. This firm renovated the building with the help of the designer, Philippe Starck, in order to open a luxurious showroom there, a facility it calls "a museum of crystal", and a restaurant named the Crystal Room.
- No. 12: This building, once a vast private house, is now the headquarters of the international liquor company, Pernod-Ricard.
- No. 14: A building constructed in 1910 on the site of the townhouse of the duc d'Isly (duke of Isly).
- No. 16: Hôtel de Yturbe. Having served as the American embassy, this structure became the property of Francisco-María de Yturbe y Anciola, the former Finance Minister of Mexico, who spent the last years of his life living there. It then passed to his oldest son, Francisco-Tirso de Yturbe, another Mexican diplomat posted to Paris, then to his second son, Miguel de Yturbe, also a diplomat. Miguel de Yturbe married María Teresa Limantour, daughter of José Yves Limantour, who was also Finance Minister of Mexico for eighteen years under President Porfirio Díaz.
- No. 17: Presently the headquarters of the Association of Regional Daily Newspapers (Syndicat de la presse quotidienne régionale, or SPQR), the building was occupied by Count Charles Cahen d'Anvers and his wife, the countess. Cahen d'Anvers was the man who, in 1935, donated the château at Champs-sur-Marne to the French state. The Lebanese businessman, Samir Traboulsi, lived here at the time of the Pechiney-Triangle political corruption scandal involving the French firm, Pechiney, and the American aluminum can company, Triangle.
- No. 18: A building at the western end of Square Thomas Jefferson, constructed by the architect, Pierre Humbert (b. 1848), for the young and wealthy Madmoiselle Mathilde de Montesquiou-Fézensac (1884–1960), who, much later, in 1920, married the musician and composer, Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937), when she was 36 years old and he was 76.
Notes and references
- Jacques-Constantin and Auguste-Charles Périer had installed two steam-powered pumps (called "the Constantine" and "the Augustine") near the Place de l'Alma which drew water from the Seine and sent it uphill to be stored in the reservoirs of Passy. This arrangement, called "the fire pump of Chaillot", was in operation from 8 August 1781 until 1900.
- The word "bitch", of course, has a completely respectable denotation, meaning "the female of the dog or certain other carnivorous mammals". It was its alternative (and more common) use, indicating "a lewd, immoral, malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman", that vexed Mr. Morton.
- According to "Le Petit Journal" of 10 May 1885: "The City of Paris accepted this gift as proof of the brotherly bond between the two countries. The city council, en masse, witnessed the official dedication of the statue on May 13, at 2 o'clock, in the Place des États-Unis. For a few days, a temporary structure had been in place in front of the American embassy, and now workmen scurried to erect a pedestal to support a one-fifth-scale model of the statue destined for America. The metal-casting took place on Thursday, at three in the morning, in the workshop of M. Thiébault in the Rue de Villiers ... Choosing to install the statue in this place was dictated by reasons of convenience that anyone can understand: but it seems to us that it ought to be moved in the future. A statue of this importance, sixteen metres tall (including the pedestal), demands a considerable clear space surrounding it so that it may be more properly viewed, and the Place des États-Unis doesn't seem, to us, to satisfy these conditions."
- On 21 January 1917, thirteen days before the severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and Germany, an evening devoted to honoring the Americans serving as volunteers in French military units was held at the Comédie-Française in Paris. Hosted by the Under-Secretary of State in the military government, René Besnard, this ceremony marked the launch of a public subscription drive with the object of erecting a monument to the American volunteers.
- André de Fouquières, Mon Paris et ses Parisiens. Les quartiers de l'Étoile, Paris, Éditions Pierre Horay, 1953, p. 176