Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Birahi
About Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
The park took its name from the bleak hill which occupied the site, which, because of the chemical composition of its soil, was almost bare of vegetation – it was called Chauve-mont, or bare hill. The area, just outside the limits of Paris until the mid-19th century, had a sinister reputation; it was the site of the Gibbet of Montfaucon, the notorious place where from the 13th century until 1760, the bodies of hanged criminals were displayed after their executions. After the 1789 Revolution, it became a refuse dump, and then a place for cutting up horse carcasses and a depository for sewage. The director of public works of Paris and builder of the Park, Jean-Charles Alphand, reported that "the site spread infectious emanations not only to the neighboring areas, but, following the direction of the wind, over the entire city."Another part of the site was a former gypsum and limestone quarry mined for the construction of buildings in Paris and in the United States. This raw material was used for a long time to produce plaster and lime. In order to make lime, gypsum was heated in furnaces. This activity was maintained until the second half of the 19th century. By the end of the 1850s, the quarry was exhausted. That quarry also yielded Eocene mammal fossils, including Palaeotherium, which were studied by Georges Cuvier. This not-very-promising site was chosen by Baron Haussmann, the Prefet of Paris, for the site of a new public park for the recreation and pleasure of the rapidly growing population of the new 19th and 20th arrondissements of Paris, which had been annexed to the city in 1860. The work on the park began in 1864, under the direction of Alphand, who used all the experience and lessons he had learned in making the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes. Two years were required simply to terrace the land. Then a railroad track was laid to bring in cars carrying two hundred thousand cubic meters of topsoil. A thousand workers remade the landscape, digging a lake and shaping the lawns and hillsides. Explosives were used to sculpt the buttes themselves and the former quarry into a picturesque mountain fifty meters high with cliffs, an interior grotto, pinnacles and arches. Hydraulic pumps were installed to lift the water from the canal of the Ourcq River up the highest point on the promontory, to create a dramatic waterfall. The chief gardener of Paris, horticulturist Jean-Pierre Barillet-Deschamps, then went to work, planting thousands of trees, shrubs and flowers, along with creating sloping lawns. At the same time, the city's chief architect, Gabriel Davioud, designed the miniature Roman temple on the top of the promontory, modeled after that at Tivoli near Rome, as well as belvederes, restaurants modeled after Swiss chalets, and gatehouses like rustic cottages, completing the imaginary landscape. The park opened on 1 April 1867, coinciding with the opening of the Paris Universal Exposition, and becoming an instant popular success with the Parisians.