Versailles, the Street of American Independence


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This is not a very long street.  Its former name is la rue de la Surintedance. Under Louis XIV, la rue de la Surintendance was composed of just a few buildings adjacent to the Chateau, all of them crammed on the right. The exception was the first building on the left (first pic) le Grand Commune. Le Grand Commun housed everyone without title — the little people: they had to put up with the smell of food coming up from the royal kitchen, for the kitchen was on the ground floor of le Grand Commun.

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Under the new king, Louis XV, things were changing, and the street grew, quickly turning into an administrative city that was supposed to bring to Versailles all the ministries scattered around Paris. The next building (photo above), also on the left side of the street, used to be the Ministry of War. It still belongs to the military, and this is why I could never show you what it’s like on the inside; but immediately after the Ministry of War there is the former Ministry of the Navy and Foreign Affairs, today a municipal library (photo below). Its history as well as the interior I have discussed previously. The contemporary name of the Street of American Independence comes from the fact that the French-American Treaty that lead to the Thirteen Colonies’ independence was signed by Vergennes and Franklin upstairs.

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The street ends with the King’s Real Estate (the picture below), where 300 clerks, the Court’s First Architect and the First Painter were minding various properties of the king around the country,  the Academies of Architecture, Painting and Sculpture and the French Academy in Rome. This means that those people often were in the position to dictate the artistic tastes of Europe in the XVIII century. Now the scaffolds cover most of the southern facade of the building. The whole thing is undergoing a heavy-duty restoration. The powers-that-be promise to turn the structure into a dormitory for the students of my Alma Mater, the University of Versailles.

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Finally, after that last building, we see the Royal Kitchen Garden, le Potager du roi. The kitchen garden is an extremely important European institution that regularly put new crops on the king’s table; and once the king ate the damned thing, the court had to do the same, and in the end what they ate at Versailles was eaten in all of Europe. Le Potager du roi is located by “the stinky fake lake,” l’Etang puant — as they used to call back then la Pièce d’eau des Swisses: The pond’s official name, just like its nick-name, tells us that the king’s body guard, the Hundred Swiss, had to dig out a large hole first to drain the swampy water.

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The Water of the Hundred Swiss, it is probably somewhere around there they have buried the Beast of Languedoc, for Jean Castel, after killing it, sought a reward, and had to carry on his back, all the way to Versailles, the body of the dead monster.

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About versaillesgossip, before and after Francis Ponge

The author of the blogs Versailles Gossip and Before and After Francis Ponge, Vadim Bystritski lives and teaches in Brest France. The the three main themes of his literary endeavours are humor, the French Prose Poetry, the French XVII and XVIII Century Art and History. His writings and occasionally art has been published in a number of ezines (Eratio, Out of Nothing, Scars TV, etc). He also contributes to Pinterest where he comments on the artifiacts from the Louvre and other collections. Some of his shorter texts are in Spanish, Russian and French.
This entry was posted in Benjamin Franklin at Versailles, Chateau Versailles, Court, Gardens and Park, the Hundred Stooges, The Hundred Swiss, Versailles. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Versailles, the Street of American Independence

  1. pedmar10 says:

    very nice photos, the grand comun will open in 2014 or 2015 dont remember exactly now but will be open to the public, inside its the old jeu du paume tenis court that has a very well preserve floor. I help as volunteer there once ::)

    • Yes, basically I took those pictures and I liked them so much that decided to write something about them. By the way, le Grand Commun also belongs to the army. I am surprised that it will be open on regular basis, maybe once a year? Presently the clock over the main entrance is under the scaffolds, that’s why I went by without any picture; and it does not make much sense to talk about building you cannot really see, yet you cannot completely ignore it.

      • pedmar10 says:

        yes hold on for the news , politics sometimes takes time here even more but i worked as volunteer there, its is historical jeu du paume from the 1700 intact inside, i know the scaffolds are still outside and remains work inside to do Cheers

      • I did not know about its existence, but the amazing thing about this “tennis court” is that Louis XIV did not like the game; of course his father did, and there were many others who kept it going.

      • pedmar10 says:

        hehehe Louis XIV did not like Versailles, hes was from St Germainen Laye ::)
        and now the descende legimiste is in touch with me ad duke of anjou and burgundy future louis XX if if if France…..born in Madrid. I will be traveling tom so have a nice Sunday

  2. Regina says:

    Love ALL your posts…it’s so educational, behind the velvet rope per se. Do you know anything about the new Hotel being outfitted within the Gran Comptrolers building in Versailles…can you do a posting, on its history and new future…it’s too be very chic and small I understand.

  3. Regina says:

    Thank you…it’s so sad that yet it is an unfinished dream! Has work begun? Light the Candles for a Miracle!

  4. I do not think so — today it looks just the same it looked two years ago. They are very actively building up the Court of Perfumes though!

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