Seattle Now & Then: The Place de la Concorde in Paris

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Paul photographed this look north across Paris’ Place de la Concorde in the late summer of 1955. He was soon on his way as a senior at Portland’s Concordia Academy and bragging about his summer trip to Europe.
NOW: The core of this sidewalk scene on Paris’ Pont de la Concorde is composed of students and teachers from Bellevue’s Hillside Student Community photographed by their arts and drama teacher Jean Sherrard.

Like our recent visit to London’s Big Ben, this look north into Paris’ Place de la Concord is one of the rare photos snapped by me for the historical half of this weekly feature. Both were recorded on a Leica I borrowed during the adventurous summer of 1955.  I was an exhilarated sixteen-year-old snapping my way through Europe, heading with about thirty other Northwest teenagers for a conference at the Cite Universitaire de Paris. (It was hot that summer, too.)

The Cite Universitaire stop in southeast Paris.  1955

Most of the ten ‘older students’ posing this summer for their combined teacher-tour guide, Jean Sherrard, are also fifteen and sixteen.  But not Kael Sherrard, Jean’s smiling brother in the checkered blue shirt on the right.  Kael is the school’s principal.  Probably every one of these Hillside students carries her or his own camera (in their phones) and are regularly sending pictures home to their parents, siblings and friends.  In 1955 we were not equipped to be that smart.

Sixty-five years later I no longer remember the name of the Texan with whom I explored Paris. Here we parody something with our discovery of a box filled with some USA standards. My taste for coffee was awakened with this trip to Europe and a cup of coffee in an Amsterdam basement cafe. It was so wonderfully rich compared to, well, Maxwell House.

Place de la Concord is as elegantly packed with landmarks as those surrounding London’s Parliament Square.  Posing at the north end of the Pont de la Concorde, the Hillside students are standing above the River Seine. Centered above them, the most distant classical structure with its tall columns, is the eglise de la Madeleine. It was conceived as a pantheon in honor of Napoleon’s armies.  The two long and nearly twin classics on the distant side of Place de la

Looking south from Madeleine to Place de la Concord. The women climbing the stairs on the left were part of our northwest delegation.

Concord were completed in the 1770s. Through their two centuries-plus served many purposes including serving as a warehouse for the King’s extra furniture.  The Hotel de la Marine, on the right, with the temporary gray blanket, reminds me how soot-shrouded were the landmarks of Europe when we visited them in the 1950s.

Notre Dame, 1955 in need of a bath and apparently getting it and more on top.

The Luxor Obelisk that stands tall above the Hillside students, was not stolen from the Egyptians but rather given to the French in the nineteenth century.  Removed from its place at the entrance to the Luxor Temple on the Nile, it arrived in Paris on December 21, 1833.  Three years later the 75-ft column was set at the center of Place de la Concord, near where in the 1790s the execution ‘theatre’ of the French Revolution excited the hordes with its efficient guillotine.  Renamed the Place de la Revolution, its blades cut off the heads of hundreds of aristocrats, along with the people’s terrorist Maximilien Robespierre, the King Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette.  By 1795 the square had settled down and was renamed the Place de la Concorde.


Berangere sent us these spectacular repeats just this morning:

Berangere notes: A month after Jean’s photo, the peristyle of the Hôtel de la Marine appears. The restoration of the historical monument will be finished in 2019, the less glorious parts of the monuments will be rented for offices, at the ground floor there will be a café, restaurant and bookstores, also exhibitions of French Art de vivre; on the first floor, visitors could discover « l’enfilade des salons d’apparat » the following of ceremonial salons and the charming Marie-Antoinette’s cabinet… In summertime the place de la Concorde is free of cars…

And a special series, thanks to BB, her repeats of a number of Paul’s 1955 photos.

The Paris Opera, in need of a cleaning, 1955
Berangere’s remarkable repeat of a gloriously restored Opera…
The Pantheon, 1955
BB’s photo of a recently restored Pantheon with its brand new dome – and on the façade, Simone Veil’s photo ( the ex-minister and survivor of the Shoah ) and her husband who were  just buried in Pantheon.
Today, on the north side of the Pantheon, open space and benches have replaced parking…
The Carrousel of the Louvre, 1955
Today’s Carrousel

Anything to add, mes compères?  More Paris from 1955 Jean.

Looking west up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triumph.
The Seine
Versailles palace, the entrance
The Bastille memorial column
Another of the Opera House, 1955
Looking northwest from the Eiffel tower, 1955.
Carrousel looking west to the Arc de Triumph.
Under the Arc Triumph with a parade at sunset.
After  nearly three months of travel completed with ten days exploring Paris (and sometimes sitting in on conference meetings) we board our bus to the airport and a DC6 still propeller-driven flight back to the U.S.A..  Now I climb the stairs to nighty-bears. I’ll return late this afternoon with some proofreading for proper Fench spellings unless BB gets to it first.

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Place de la Concorde in Paris”

  1. Paul,

    Wonderful rewind in the Times of your Sky River Festival. Do you still live in Wallingford? Pam (Beyette, a former studio neighbor American Meter Machine Bldg) and me, still live in the same house (upper Wallingford circa 1977) She makes art ( and I am writing outdoor/travel ( Peace brother,


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