Lined with low and tall houses, the quiet and green rue des Cascades, Paris is a surprising street with a provincial atmosphere located in the Belleville neighbourhood.
Rue des Cascades: A bit of history
The rue des Cascades in the 20th arrondissement of Paris is 475 m long. It is winding on the side of the Belleville hill between the Place Henri-Krasucki and the 101 rue de Ménilmontant.
The first mention of the rue des cascades dates back to the 17th century. It was back then a pathway. The name of the street means ‘waterfalls’ in French. It refers to the three ‘regards’ (or manholes) that were connected to the Belleville aqueduct.
A clever water supply system was put in place during the Roman era and was later abandoned. In the Middle Ages it was rediscovered and used by religious orders such as the Saint-Martin-des-Champs abbey and the Templars (now in the 3rd arrondissement) to supply them with captured rainwater.
The regard Saint-Martin
The Regard Saint-Martin lies at the crossroads with the rue de Savies. That small stone manhole once gave access to pipelines. The regard also served as an observation chamber. People in charge had to make sure the quality of fresh water was ok (hence the French word ‘regarder’ = to look). The regard Saint-Martin is set against the retaining wall that borders the street. On the pediment is a commemorative plaque from the 18th century. Written in Latin, it describes the extensive restauration work carried out on the manhole circa 1722.
The regard Saint-Martin was built on the ancient Savies fountain and was one of Belleville’s oldest springs. Originally the water was flowing down the hill until the monks of the Saint-Martin des Champs had an aqueduct built in the Middle Ages to supply them with fresh water.
There are two other manholes found in the street: the regard des Messiers (number 17) and the regard de la roquette (number 41) that are not accessible to the public.
Most of the streets in the neighbourhood bear names referring to the captured rainwater: rue de la Mare (Pond street), rue des rigoles (Rivulets street) or rue de la Duée (Gushing spring street).
How to get there
- Location of the Rue des Cascades (link opens a google map): http://goo.gl/maps/tSQiaJkq2zK2
- Closest métro stations: Pyrénées (line 11), Ménilmontant (line 2) or Gambetta (line 3).
- Have you been to some curious/odd places in Paris? Share with us your Paris discoveries by commenting below! We’d love to hear from you!