Where to find the last boot scrapers of Paris?

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When visiting Paris you might take notice of tiny remnants of days gone by, wondering what they were used for. One of them are boot scrapers. One hundred years ago they were found everywhere in the streets of Paris. Only a few of them have been kept and I’m telling you where to find them!


What are boot scrapers?

décrottoir bootscraper Paris

Boot scraper, 118 rue Monge (5th arrt) © French Moments

A hundred years ago, before Paris was invaded by cars and vélibs, it was the era of horses. In 1900 it was estimated that there were 80,000 horses and donkeys working in Paris. All these animals caused a big deal of horse manure and mud on the streets. Can you imagine stepping inside a house with (very) dirty shoes on? Boot scrapers were created to address the problem.

Horse-drawn vehicles on rue Saint-Lazare, Paris at the beginning of the 20th C

They appeared at the entrance to many decent houses, churches and hospitals in Paris, Brussels, London and New York.

Guests and visitors would then wipe off the mud and excrement before entering the house. The French called them ‘décrottoir‘, which literally means the removal excrement. 

They were usually cast-iron cut outs fixed some 15 cm above the ground. Originally the first boot-scrapers appeared in the 18th century and were used until the 1940s. They are in their own way a pre-curser to the modern doormats.

décrottoir bootscraper Paris

Boot scrapers, Villa Ballu (9th arrt) © French Moments

When visitors did not need to clean the mud off their shoes, Parisian boot scrapers disappeared. This took place from the beginning of the 1940s. Scrapers were either collected as ferrous metals or progressively taken out when restoring and improving roads and pavements. Although they disappeared from the streets in Paris, they have been kept in many streets of Brussels, Belgium.

Here is below a map showing locations of a few boot scrapers in Paris:

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  • Saint-Roch church, 296 rue Saint-Honoré (1st arrt)
  • 131, boulevard de Sébastopol (2nd arrt). In the courtyard.
  • 118, rue Monge (5th arrt)
  • Saint-Sulpice church (6th arrt)
  • 133, boulevard du Montparnasse (6th arrt)
  • 140, boulevard Saint-Germain (6th arrt)
  • Villa Ballu (9th arrt) – under the entrance porch
  • rue Bichat (10th) – at the entrance to the St. Louis hospital
  • 67, rue des Meuniers (12th arrt). This ‘maison à petits loyers‘ (low-rent house) was built by architect Jacques Bonnier in 1913.

English-French vocabulary

boot-scraper décrottoir (m)
boot botte (f)
dirt saleté (f)
horse cheval (m,s) / chevaux (m,p)
mud boue (f)
pavement trottoir (m)
shoe chaussure (f)

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Do you know other places where to find boot scrapers in Paris? Let us know by commenting below! 🙂

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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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