History Of Retail In 100 Objects – Galaries du Bois

Galeries de Bois

It’s Tuesday so it’s The History Of Retail In 100 Objects post – This weeks object is Galaries du Bois.

Shopping in Paris is just as important as eating, walking, and visiting museums, and the pre-20th Century shopping Malls of Paris are still an attraction for tourists to day. The malls have long iron structured glass roofs, and original features such as marble and black and white tiled floors. They house restaurants, shops and boutiques. The passages were built in the style of a ‘souk’ – a covered area in which to shop, browse and meet friends. The Galeries du Bois au Palais-Royal was built in 1786 and housed 120 luxury boutiques; after shopping there you could pop in to the central gardens that housed the Palais Royal. The Galeries du Bois became the prototype for the other passages of Paris that followed. The upper classes loved these malls. They could shop and meet, away from noise, smells, weather and ‘unsightly riff-raff’. Famous writers and other notables visited them. Balzac and Zola wrote about them in their books. By 1850 Paris had 150 passages, but today just 30 remain. Department stores such as Bon Marché, which opened in 1852, began to replace them.

Contribution to Retail History

The Galeries du Bois form another link in the chain of the history of public shopping ‘centres’, which stretches back to the forums of Ancient Rome. The 18th century Parisian ‘galleries’ share many features with today’s modern malls – a covered, pleasant retail environment where shopping is a social pastime, as well as, a commercial activity.

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