During a walk near the Place des Vosges, and God knows I’ve been there countless times, I noticed a building that has been converted into a Uniqlo clothing shop. If I’m rather passionate about architecture, this building in particular caught my attention because the façade of the building spoke of jewelers. And that, of course, could not leave me indifferent!
Former building of the “Société des cendres”, 39 rue des francs-bourgeois in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. Photo: The gemologist.
Detail of the entrance of the building, with the old plaque of the society. Photo: The gemmologist
On the facade, it says that this place, the Société des cendres, was founded in 1859 by the Société des bijoutiers, joailliers et orfèvres and that they practice here :
- Casting of gold and silver
- Treatment of ashes
- Testing and analysis (of metals and ashes, nda)
So I wanted to know a bit more about it and show you some pictures taken in this place. But before that, a bit of history is in order!
In 1859, a group of jewellers and goldsmiths in the Marais district of Paris decided to found a company to recover the precious metals contained in the dust, sweepings and sludge of the workshops, in other words: the manufacturing waste containing almost everything but especially precious metals. In the trade, this is often referred to as “workshop ash”. Hence the name Ash Society. Later on, the dental industry also came into contact with this group. The company still exists, but has moved to Vitry-sur-Seine, where it now offers products for the dental sector. But it is important to know that this factory was the last to operate in the Marais. It closed its doors in 2002.
The building is made up of two parts: the first on the street, with former offices and a former caretaker’s lodge, the second, with its superb glass roof and its imposing blast furnace. In the basement, you can still see machines that were used for the extraction of metals by the “ash washers”. And yes, my job is full of nice names: ash washers, polishers, bead stringers… And so on!
Uniqlo bought the place and rehabilitated it. A godsend for the location of the place at 39, rue des francs-bourgeois. But also, a chance for visitors, because the brand has kept the appearance of the place intact and has thus contributed to safeguarding an industrial heritage of the 4th arrondissement of Paris! And the visit is well worth the diversions. I just advise you to wait until the madness of the opening three weeks ago has passed. You will then be able to see the place a little better.
Detail of the building’s frontispiece. Photo: The Gemologist
The concierge’s lodge and the entrance to the offices, facing each other in the entrance hall of the building. Photos: The gemmologist
Entrance to the ash workshop, and view of the workshop’s glass roof. Photo: The gemmologist
View from inside, under the glass roof. The clock is now frozen. Photo: The gemologist
View from the first floor, one can admire the glass roof and the blast furnace entirely restored. Photo : Jacques Prévot ( @nancylorraine )
See you soon!