House of the fountain keeper
Avenue de l'Observatoire
Giovanni Domenico Cassini, recruited in 1669 was the first of a family dynasty of Paris Observatory Directors, during one hundred and twenty five years up to the French Revolution.
Arago, director of the Paris Observatory from 1843 to 1853 said these words about his neighbor, the writer Honoré de Balzac who also lived rue Cassini: "... From my window, I could see him by the flickering light of candles: we were
two night workers, myself with the eyes directed into the space, himself with the head downward his paper. And I am not sure that the one able to see the farthest was the astronomer! ..."
It was certainly no pleasure
for Balzac to settle in this district, that he described in his novel History of the Thirteen, Ferragus:
"There in fact, Paris has ceased to be; and yet Paris is still there. This place smacks at one and the same time of the city square, the
street, the boulevard, the fortification, the garden, the avenue, the highway, the province and the capital; certainly it has something of all that but is nothing of all that: it is a desert."
However, he had to flee away from his creditors who were
waiting for him rue des-Marais-Saint-Germain (today rue Visconti) where he had his printing press. He therefore settled in a house at N° 4 to 8 rue Cassini (cf: Connaissance du Vieux Paris – J. Hillairet), under the
name of Surville, his brother-in-law.
A series of three amazing and different villas
for artists, built between 1903 and 1906, by Louis Süe, painter and architect can be seen at N° 3bis, 5 and 7.
The Paris Observatory can be seen at the end of the street. Their website offers a large set of astronomy learning services and resources.
The Maison du Fontainier
(meaning the house of the fountain keeper) is standing right next the Paris Observatory. I was referring to it when we were in front of the man hole on avenue René Coty. This is where the Medici aqueduct was arriving. The person who had the royal charge of the water supply was living in the house. The aqueduct had twenty seven man holes (Regards), as points of control and maintenance. We saw the no 25 on
avenue René Coty and the Maison du Fontainier has the no
27. Under the house, in a basement, there were three basins and canals. The first was distributing the water to the Luxembourg Palace, the second to the convents and the third to several public fountains in Paris. Visits can be arranged with the association
of Paris Historique. The house is generally opened during the Heritage Days. See also this page for a virtual visit.
Let’s continue in the boulevard de l’Observatoire, then rue Henri Barbusse leading to boulevard de Port-Royal.