The Rue de Rennes is one of the long, straight streets that were cut through Paris during the Second Empire, under Napoléon III and his Prefect, Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-1891). Hundreds of old buildings that were in the way of the new street were expropriated and demolished.
The street now runs from the Montparnasse Tower northeast to the intersection with Boulevard Saint-Germain. From there it was supposed to be extended all the way to the river Seine, which would have meant demolishing many more buildings including the Institut de France, but this never happened.
This planned extension is the reason the house numbers on Rue de Rennes begin with number 41, because the numbers 1-40 were reserved for the section that was never built.
The Rue de Rennes got its name from the fact that it leads directly to the railway station Gare Montparnasse, where the trains leave for Rennes among other places. This was true in the 1850s and is still true today, except that the station is now a modern one located just behind the Montparnasse Tower.
The Félix Potin building at 140 rue de Rennes, at the corner of rue Blaise Desgoffe, is a seven-storey Art Nouveau building that was constructed in 1904 by the architect Paul Auscher (1866-1932).
Félix Potin (1820-1871) was the founder of a chain of food stores that was very successful in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His chain was the first in France to establish its own packaging plants and its own house brands, among other innovations. Today the lower floors of the building are used by the Zara clothing chain.
The metal-and glass fnac building at 136 rue de Rennes is not exactly an architectural masterpiece (no architect has admitted to designing it, as far as I know), but it does have the advantage that it reflects the nearby buildings including the Félix Potin building. Also, fnac is a useful store because they sell advance tickets for theaters and museums, and they have a large selection of books and other media. (There are several other fnac stores in different parts of Paris, for instance at Les Halles and Place d’Italie.)
Location and aerial view of the Félix Potin building on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2013. I revised the text in 2021.
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