In the name of a King…
What remains of François 1er on the street and the square named in his honor? Not a great deal. The noble name was chosen in 1823 when the home of this former King of France was moved here from the town of Moret-sur-Loing. For nearly a century and a half, advice it remained in Paris at the corner of rue Bayard. Today, one can once again see the elegant Renaissance décor and the monarch’s famous symbol, a little salamander, in Moret. The Place François 1er has lost its king but not its splendor. Its beautiful private mansions remain, as well as a fountain. The fountain, built in 1865 by architect Gabriel Davioud, originally for the Place de la Madeleine, includes a basin held up by four griffons sculpted by Théophile Murguet
Detail is everything
The Rue François 1er slopes gently down toward Avenue Montaigne, then rises back up in a more determined manner toward Avenue George V, characterized by its posh buildings. Even if there are no classified historic monuments, it’s well worth looking up to observe some of the details that add zest to Parisian architecture. Notice the perfectly designed facades. Stop, for example, in front of number 6 or number 29, in front of the little private mansion that welcomed the Maison Zilli, or in front of number 56, with its harmoniously angled façade and wrought iron balconies running along the second and fifth floors, typical inspirations of the Haussmanian period.
James Joyce and the marquee
Exuberance is not characteristic of 19th Century buildings that give the impression of security with their subdued ornamentation in elegant dressed stone. The animation comes from structural elements or from the decoration. One thinks of doors and balconies (such as those at number 25), of gates (notice particularly those at number 2 and on the Place François 1er.) Up high, under the roofs, bas- reliefs can often be seen. Observing them requires craning ones neck, but some are worth the effort, such as those crowning the building where the L’ Avenue restaurant is located. Glass marquees, once so common, are now rare, so it is a pleasure to admire the one gracing number 52 at the Hotel Powers where James Joyce stayed in 1931.