For a European town, 125 years is not very old, but Bois-Colombes is nonetheless celebrating its 125th birthday in 2021.
Most of the nearby towns are much older. Colombes, to the north, has been inhabited since ancient Roman times, while Asnières, to the south, was first mentioned in a document (a Papal Bull, no less) in the year 1158.
As the name implies, Bois-Colombes was originally a patch of woods belonging to the town of Colombes (= Doves).
According to a text on the Bois-Colombes town website: “The territory of Bois-Colombes, until the middle of the 19th century, must have been entirely uninhabited; in 1851, the Colombes census tables made mention, for the first time, of the presence of 17 inhabitants on these lands.”
Soon more people started settling there, and from 1856 the new village was served by the Bois de Colombes station (the de was later dropped) on the railway line of Paris to Rouen via Argenteuil. “The Franco-German war of 1870 temporarily slowed down the development of Bois-Colombes. When business resumed, separatist tendencies developed. The inhabitants of new village, composed mainly of intellectuals, got along quite badly with those of the old town of Colombes, mainly made up of farmers. This sometimes resulted in violent incidents.”
The website goes on to speak of a “separatist struggle” that became “more and more ardent, and was finally crowned with success by the Law of March 17, 1896,” which established Bois-Colombes as a separate commune, independent of Colombes.
On the façade of the town hall (Hôtel de Ville), and in various other places around Bois-Colombes, the year 1896 is represented by this silhouette of a man with a cane and a top hat. He is politely tipping his hat to …
… this young woman from the year 2021, who is wearing a short skirt and talking on her mobile phone.
Older buildings in France, as in the rest of Europe, often still have their individual chimneys, left over from the days when there was no central heating and each room had to have its own stove or fireplace. Usually there is no way of telling which chimney was connected to which room, but in Bois-Colombes I came across this building (on Rue d’Estienne d’Orves) which has different-colored bricks to show where each chimney leads. (If you’ve seen this anywhere else, please tell me in the comments below.)
My photos and text in this post are from 2021.
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