From royal free city to industrialisation (1681-1871)

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From royal free city to industrialisation (1681-1871)

The mansions built along the site of the old Roman city wall were the basis for the shift in the city's power structure from place Gutenberg to place Broglie, after the Revolution.

Louis XV was quick to realise the strategic importance of Strasbourg's location close to the Rhine and the city was annexed to France after it surrendered on 30 September 1681. The city became a stronghold and a major garrison city, protecting the kingdom's borders.

A strategic stronghold

Vauban began work in Strasbourg in October 1681. When designing the new fortifications for the city, he used the existing defences as much as possible, while adding new elements, including the Citadelle fortress, which replaced the eastern wall of the Krutenau. The barrage Vauban was built to protect the perceived weak point of the city's defences, the Ponts couverts. To house the garrison of between 5000 and 6000 soldiers brought in to man the defences, a series of barracks were built inside the walls on land that was either underused or reserve for military use (the Esplanade and the Citadelle itself). The military presence left its mark with other buildings in the city, including the military hospital, built in 1695, the Governor's house in the rue de la Nuée Bleue and the municipal Arsenal, which included the Royal cannon foundry (1703) at the place du Marché-aux-Chevaux (place Broglie).

The effects of the nobility and the bourgeoisie

The 18th century saw the start of a burgeoning Court of nobles and wealthy bourgeois, which left its mark on the city. The Palais Rohan, built between 1732 and 1742, for the eponymous bishops, was the first example of the new French style in Strasbourg. The number of private mansions erected in rue Brûlée and rue de la Nuée Bleue continued the trend.

For financial reasons, the Magistrate only undertook small-scale urban developments, which saw the construction of private buildings. The gardens of the Hôtel de la Prévôté du Grand Chapitre (the mansion of the Prevost of the Grand Chapter) were turned into the place du Marché-Neuf in 1738. Place Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune was formed when the city authorities knocked down the wall of the old cemetery. The Cour Brulée was freed up in 1769 to give way to the place du Marché-Gayot, while the place du Château saw the construction of the Palais Rohan from 1732 two 1742 and the Jesuit college from 1757 to 1759.

One of the more welcome measures taken by the city in the 18th century was the introduction of promenades both inside and outside the city walls, for the use of the population as a whole, and these were often lined with linden trees. Inside the city, place du Marché-aux-Chevaux was opened in 1740, while the botanical gardens, first planted in 1619 in the grounds of the Saint-Nicolas-aux-Ondes monastery in 1619, was enlarged three times, in 1736, 1769 and 1783. Outside the city walls, the Lenôtre promenade (now the Orangerie park), was opened in 1692, while the military firing range was turned into the Contades park in 1764.

Solving the traffic and public health issues

The expansion and urbanisation of the city had resulted in traffic and public health issues and the Magistrate asked the king to send someone to help resolve these problems. Architect Jacques-François Blondel came up with a plan to help ease the traffic situation through the construction of new thoroughfares, linking the Paris route arriving at the Porte de Saverne with the roads to Kehl to the east and Lyon and Basel to the south, arriving at the Porte des Bouchers. Blondel's plan was given approval on to October 1768. His next task was to make the city easier to travel within and he made many changes to public squares and the city's road layout. A number of buildings were demolished, including the Palais de la Monnaie in 1738, the Pfalz in 1782 and the Chancellery in 1800, although a lack of funds meant nothing was put up in their place. Blondel's project for building a grand square on the site of the Franciscan monastery (which had been demolished a century earlier) came to nothing and the only building he managed to complete was the Aubette, built in 1778 to house Army staff offices and the King's bodyguard.

The effects of the Revolution

The Revolution left the city in a pretty dire state - most of the great mansions and buildings had been abandoned, while the churches and public areas had seen significant damage. Like everywhere else in France, the nationalisation of clerical property and the removal of the nobles had left the way open for new institutions to set up within the empty buildings. The Neubau, or town hall, was in such a poor state after being pillaged and sacked in 1789 that the city authorities had to set up temporary offices in the Château Rohan. When the Chateau became an imperial residence in 1806, the authorities moved into one of the mansions located between rue Brûlée and place Broglie, which were the centre of local government of the time, with the hôtel de Hesse-Darmstadt occupied by the city authorities, the Klinglin by the departmental authorities and the Deux Ponts by the military governor. The old governor's residence in rue de la Nuée Bleue was taken over as the courthouse. The city saw a significant shift in the centre of power from place Gutenberg to the rue Brulée and place Broglie sector and also, to a lesser extent, rue de la Nuée Bleue.

The years 1800 to 1830 saw further changes, with city architect Valentin Boudhors adding the pavillon Joséphine to the Lenôtre promenade (the Orangerie) in 1804 , while his successor, Jean Villot designed the new Theatre in 1824, the Corn Hall in 1826 (it was demolished at the end of the 19th century) and the Pharmacology Institute in 1831. The completion of the municipal Theatre and the filling of the Fossé des Tanneurs gave place Broglie its final shape, while the Military School of Health was built on the place du Château in 1864.

The modernisation of a key strategic city

It was only after 1830, once Strasbourg had consolidated its role as a major European crossroads, that the city would undergo its first modernisation. One of the first moves was to install gas lighting in a dozen or so streets. Public health saw a significant improvement with remediation work from 1836 to 1840, which included filling the Fossé des Tanneurs ditch, which extended from Grand’Rue to the Préfecture, and the reconstruction of the Petites-Boucheries, behind the Aubette from 1838 to 1840. By 1841, the sewage system was 7.2 km long. In 1863, city architect Jean-Geoffroy Conrath came up with a scheme for laying sewage pipes and paving public thoroughfares and installing pavements. The replacement of the Fossé des Tanneurs ditch by a sewer main between 1836 and 1840, paved the way for Conrath's plans.

The opening of the Rhone-Rhine Canal in 1833 provided the opportunity for modernising the port and creating a new area for trade and business in the north of the city. The demolition of the false rampart of the canal du Faux-Rempart between 1831 and 1838 opened up a 30-metre wide channel for boats to sail down. A number of bridges were subsequently renovated or rebuilt, while dockside thoroughfares were built between the Petite France and St Stephen's church. The Marais-Vert railway station, opened in 1852, shifted the city's business centre away from its old centre towards the north of the city.