Leveling the ground, pulling down old buildings, and distributing light and air through her wide streets, Paris is slowly and continuously pursuing her transformation. At this moment it is an entire district, and not one of the least curious ones, that is disappearing, leaving no other trace of its existence than the circular walls that once inclosed the wheat market.
It is this building that, metamorphosed, is to become the Commercial Exchange that has been so earnestly demanded since 1880 by the commerce of Paris. The question, which was simple in the first place, and consisted in the conversion of the wheat market into a commercial exchange, became complicated by a project of enlarging the markets. It therefore became necessary to take possession, on the one hand, of sixty seven estates, of a total area of 116,715 square feet, to clear the exchange, and, on the other, of 49,965 square feet to clear the central markets. In other words, out of $5,000,000 voted by the common council for this work, $2,800,000 are devoted to the dispossessions necessitated by the new exchange, $1,800,000 to those necessitated by the markets, and $400,000 are appropriated to the wheat market.
The work of demolition began last spring, and the odd number side of Orleans street, Deux-Ecus street, from this latter to J.J. Rousseau street, Babille street, Mercier street, and Sortine street, now no longer exist. All this part is to-day but a desert, in whose center stands the iron trussing of the wheat market cupola. It is on these grounds that will be laid out the prolongation of Louvre street in a straight line to Coquilliere street.
Our engraving shows the present state of the work. What is seen of the wheat market will be preserved and utilized by Mr. Blondeau, the architect, who has obtained a grant from the commercial exchange to construct two edifices on two plots of an area of 32,220 square feet, fronting on Louvre street, and which will bring the city an annual rent of $60,000.
THE NEW COMMERCIAL EXCHANGE, PARIS.
Around the rotunda that still exists there was a circular wall 6½ feet in thickness. Mr. Blondeau has torn this down, and is now building another one appropriate to the new destination of the acquired estates. As for the trussing of the cupola, that is considered as a work of art, and care has been taken not to touch it. It was constructed at the beginning of this century, at an epoch when nothing but rudimentary tools were to be had for working iron, and it was, so to speak, forged. All the pieces were made with the hammer and were added one to the other in succession. This cupola will be glazed at the upper part, while the lower part will be covered with zinc. In the interior this part will be decorated with allegorical paintings representing the five divisions of the globe, with their commercial and industrial attributes. It was feared at one time that the hall, to which admission will be free, would not afford sufficient space, and the halls of the Bordeaux and Havre exchanges were cited.
It is true that the hall of the wheat market has an area of but 11,825 square feet, but on utilizing the 5,000 feet of the circular gallery, which will not be occupied, it will reach 16,825 feet.
As for the tower which stands at one side of the edifice, that was built by Marie de Medici for the astrologer whom she brought with her to Paris from Florence. On account of its historic interest, this structure will be preserved. On either side of this tower, overlooking the roofs of the neighboring dwellings, are perceived the summit of a tower of St. Eustache church and a campanile of a pavilion of the markets. - L'Illustration.