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Attached To The 16Th-Century Cracks

One of our readers has been apartment hunting this week with the help of our Property Search Manager, Jocelyn Carnegie. Her sights were set on the 3rd arrondissement (the northern part of Le Marais) after falling in love with rue Charlot where she is renting an apartment for the week. This isn’t surprising to me in the least, as a resident of the “quartier” and a complete devotee of this “petit coin” of Paris.

The oldest house in Paris is here in the 3rd — built in 1407 at 51, rue de Montmorency. It is the “Maison du Haut Pignon,” that was owned by Nicolas Flamel, the most famous alchemist of the Middle Ages. With his wife’s help, he succeeded in transmuting lead into gold. They were owners of many fine houses in medieval Paris and generous people, too, as they used to welcome and offer meals to the homeless. This house was a haven for many. Today it is the restaurant “Auberge Nicolas Flamel.”

Another one of Paris’s oldest houses it at the corner of rue Volta and rue au Maire at number 3 that is totally unmarked as historic and houses a Vietnamese restaurant of Soup Pho. Some argue that it is older than the Flamel house. This tiny corner, a part of the a small Asian enclave, is rarely passed by tourists and is easily missed. I pass it often on the way to one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, Chez Shen…on rue au Maire just at the corner of rue Beaubourg…authentic and very inexpensive.

In their search for a pied-à-terre, they had the luck to discover another one of Paris’ little treasures…a corner apartment in a 16th-century building in the same immediate area as the Maison du Haut Pignon and one long block from rue au Maire with the characteristic angled facade, all recently renovated. The street where one enters is very narrow and pedestrian, therefore quiet, and the other is also narrow, but lined with wholesalers that shut their doors at 6 p.m. leaving it tranquil for the evening. The views from the corner “salon” are stunning of these narrow Marais streets. The ceilings are beamed, nothing is at right angles and the floor tilts. It’s all part of the charm.

Today, our expert architect is coming for a look to verify the structural quality of the building, as there are small fissures around the apartment. I’m confident that with a building of this age, built of wood, not concrete, that moves and settles with time, isn’t in fact going anywhere, at least not for a long while. The cracks on the walls in my own apartment (17th-century) are constantly reappearing and with every one, I get a little more emotionally attached. I’m sure she will, too.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Property in the 3rd arrondissement has seen tremendous increases in prices over the last three years (about 13% appreciation each year) and is still on the way up as a desirable part of Paris to live and own property. If you are interested in learning more about having your own little piece of it, contact us

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