At the beginning of the year 1881, the committee on finances of the common council of Paris received a petition from the central committee of the syndical chambers asking for the establishment of an official exchange for merchandise and commercial transactions for the especial use of Parisian commerce. To this petition was added a project of organization which proposed the appropriation of the grain market, with a clearing of the approaches. The Paris chamber of commerce had likewise been for a long time contemplating the establishment of a merchandise exchange, and was studying the practical means of organizing it.
Called upon to decide, the common council, at its session of May 28, 1881, decreed that an official merchandise exchange for the commerce of Paris should be organized, and that the grain market, or any other place considered favorable by the administration, should be appropriated.
Desirous of aiding in carrying out this decree, the chamber of commerce offered its services to the city. It proposed to take upon itself the responsibility of organizing and managing the exchange, and of borrowing the money necessary for converting the grain market into a merchandise exchange, and for clearing the approaches and opening Louvre Street.
The study of this project soon became connected, by reason of the proximity of the places, with the one having for its object the enlarging of the central markets and the construction of two pavilions to complete them. It was recognized that it would be of interest to make the appropriation necessary for the enlarging of the markets and to unite the two operations. After many vicissitudes, this project received the approval of the common council.
The contract for the work was given on the 2d of March, 1886, to Mr. Blondel, the well known architect.
Let us now see how the contract has been followed out. The grain market was built in 1767, upon the site of the hotel of Soissons. Of this, nothing was preserved but the astronomical tower of Catherine de Medicis, which still remains. The central part of the market left free was soon covered with a wooden framework, which was destroyed by fire in 1802. This was then replaced by the architect Brunet with an iron cupola covered with sheet copper. This market was designed for the reception of the grain and flour necessary to supply the city, but was soon supplanted by public granaries, and then by general stores. It afterward became a depot in which grain and flour brokers received merchandise from shippers in order to effect a sale of it. The abolition of the factorat gave it its last blow.
Let us examine the transformations made by Mr. Blondel in the old structure. He began by excavating under the entire extent of the market a basement 13 ft. in depth. The old foundations of the circular walls, which are more than 6 ft. thick, and which are extremely solid, extend to a depth of about 2½ ft. beneath the surface. The ceiling of the basement, in the annular part between the walls, is formed of large T iron girders, resting upon the circular walls. These support transverse girders, which, in turn, support the floor irons.
The flooring of the hall is formed of ordinary floor irons, assembled upon large girders, which are supported here and there by cast iron columns. Under this flooring there is a second one, leaving a free space of about ten inches, in which will be placed the tubes serving for ventilation. To these pipes will be joined vertical ones debouching in the flooring of the hall.
The old dome did not have apertures enough, and the skylight even was not transparent, and so the lighting of the hall was very defective. The mode of covering the dome was therefore completely modified. The copper was removed, and upon the old framework was laid a wooden framework, to which will be nailed laths designed to receive a slate roof. The slate will not extend to the summit of the dome, but will leave above it a spherical cap, which will be glazed, and through which the light will enter the hall in abundance.
In the basement will be installed the ventilating and heating apparatus. Another part of the basement will be occupied by the dynamo machines that are to furnish the electric light. Another part will receive the bake ovens that belong to the laboratory of the committee on grain and flour. The rest of the basement will be rented. The central part will probably be converted into a cold room for the preservation of early fruit and vegetables.
On the ground floor, we find, in the first place, the rooms that the contractor is to furnish gratuitously for post office, telegraph, and telephones, and to licensed brokers, and especially a hall of superb dimensions designed for the public sale of raw materials by the brokers.
What remains of the ground floor will be devoted to offices looking at once upon the hall and Viarones Street. The entresol and the two stories will be connected by several staircases. The various stories will also be reached through elevators. A circular balcony will extend around the hall at the level of each of the two upper stories. These will be occupied by offices smaller than those on the ground floor, which will, some of them, get their light from the hall, and others from the street.
A part of the second story will be reserved for the service of the committees on grain and flour, who, as experts, are called upon to determine to what type each specimen is to be referred.
From the exchange, let us pass to the annexes. The one on the right is destined to become a large hotel for the accommodation of provincial and foreign merchants. The one to the left will be a tenement house, with shops and apartments. Along each of these annexes, on Viarones Street, will extend a covered colonnade. - Abstract from Le Genie Civil.