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Gare d'Orsay: Wikis


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Coordinates: 48°51′37″N 2°19′31″E / 48.860283°N 2.325392°E / 48.860283; 2.325392

Gare d'Orsay site seen from The Louvre in March 2006.

Gare d'Orsay is a former Parisian railway station and hotel, built in 1900 to designs by Victor Laloux, Lucien Magne and Émile Bénard; it served as a terminus for the Chemin de Fer de Paris à Orléans (Paris-Orléans Railway). It was the first electrified urban rail terminal in the world, opened 28 May 1900, in time for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. [1]



The site was occupied by the Palais d'Orsay, intended for the Conseil d’État. It was begun in 1810 but not completed until 1840, when its ground floor was occupied by the Council. In 1842 the Cour des Comptes was housed in the first floor. After the fall of the French Second Empire in 1870, the Paris Commune created a provisional commission to replace the Conseil (March 1870 to August 1872), and the archives, library and works of art were removed to Versailles. Eventually both the Conseil and the Cour des Comptes were rehoused in the Palais-Royal

The largely empty Palais d'Orsay burned to a shell in a spectacular fire the night of 23-24 May 1871, which was vividly described by Emile Zola.

The site was purchased by the Compagnie Paris-Orléans, which erected the monumental station in Baroque style, which takes its name from the Quai d'Orsay on which it stands, as the terminus for the railways of southwestern France. By 1939 the station's short platforms had become unsuitable for the longer trains that had come to be used for mainline services, and the Gare d'Orsay was closed to long-distance traffic, though some suburban trains of the SNCF continue to use its lower levels to this day. The station's hotel closed at the beginning of 1973.

Detail of the front of the old station showing one of the large clocks.

The former station was used as a collection point for the dispatch of parcels to prisoners of war during the Second World War, and after the war as a reception centre for liberated prisoners on their return; a plaque on the side of the building facing the River Seine commemorates this latter use.

It served as the setting for several films, including Orson Welles' version of Franz Kafka's The Trial. It was at the Gare d'Orsay that General Charles de Gaulle held the press conference at which he announced his "availability to serve his country" on 19 May 1958, ushering in the end of the French Fourth Republic.


In 1977 the French Government decided to convert the station to a museum. The building was listed as a historical monument in 1978 and re-opened as the Musée d'Orsay in December 1986. The chief architect for the conversion was the Italian Gae Aulenti. There is a huge clock which still works in the main terminal housing the museum.


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