Paris - Ile De France Section

Paris 13th District - 13eme Arrondissement

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Paris 13th District

Modern day Paris 13th District is located on the Rive Gauche and is commonly known as Arrondissement des Gobelins.

It includes:

Quartier de la Salpêtrière, Quartier de la Gare, Quartier de la Maison Blanche and Quartier de Croulebarbe.

Paris 13th district has been traditionally associated with the Bièvre River and the prestigious Manufacture des Gobelins.

The small river was canalized underground in 1910.

For centuries this area was a vast marsh dominated by a hillock known as Butte-aux-Cailles.

The only settlements were the villages of Ivry, Gentilly and Bicêtre.

Villagers farmed on the fertile river banks and grew vineyards on the gentle slopes.

They exploited the plaster and stone quarries located on the plateau dominating the Seine Valley.

Paris 13th District gained its identity in the late 14th century when the Flemish dyer Jean Gobelin established his workshop on the river bank.

Slaughter houses, butchers, tanners, leather craftsmen and dyers settled in the vicinity of the Manufacture des Gobelins.

They thrived from the 13th to the 17th century, but transformed the Bièvre into a putrid sewer!

This concentration of industries triggered the apparition of a working class population for whom misery, poverty, illness and delinquency were the daily reality.

Louis XIV built La Salpêtrière, La Pitié and Bicêtre hospices in order to assist them.

La Salpêtrière was also located near the Church of Saint-Marcel, the centre of the original Christian community that appeared 20 centuries ago.

The Quartier Croulebarbe was named after the watermill located along the Bièvre near the Manufacture des Gobelins.

The Moulin Croulebarbe stood on the eastern side of the current public garden Square René Le Gall.

It was pulled down when the river was canalized underground in 1910.

The Quartier de la Maison Blanche was named after an inn located near the current Maison Blanche Metro station.

The southern part of Paris 13th District attracted more indigents after the expropriations that resulted from the urbanization of the 1860s.

Shanty towns and waste lands appeared along the fortification wall.

The southern outskirts of the district remained modest and rural until the 1900s.

Heavy industry developed along the Seine near Gare d’Austerlitz, and turned this enclave into a working class district.

The aggressive program of urbanization initiated in the 1960s has dramatically redefined Paris 13th District.

It indeed replaces the many insalubrious enclaves and polluting factories with modern projects along the Seine (National Library) or Place d’Italie.

If Paris 13th District is still known as the Quartier des Gobelins, it has though lost its working class and crafty identity.

It has become Paris ChinaTown and is home to Vietnamese and Chinese political migrants since the 1960s.

However, it is also being converted into a modern city.

Working class estates or cités built during the 19th century have fortunately escaped demolition and have retained a unique charm.

Tiny green enclaves with small houses, hidden courtyards, gardens, cobbled streets and obsolete names turn Paris 13th District into a hidden country in the heart of the city.

Metro stations serving Paris 13th District

Line 5: Place d'Italie, Campo Formio, Saint-Marcel, Gare d'Austerlitz
Line 6: Quai de la Gare, Chevaleret, Nationale, Place d'Italie, Corvisart, Glacière
Line 7: Les Gobelins, Place d'Italie, Tolbiac, Maison Blanche, Porte d'Italie, Porte d'Ivry
Line 10: Gare d'Austerlitz

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