After having housed the Crown’s Garde-Meuble and then the french Ministry of the Navy for more than two centuries, the prestigious Hôtel de la Marine will soon add a new chapter to its history! Administered since 2016 by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, this monument located in the heart of Paris, on Place de la Concorde, is now in the final phase of a vast restoration project and is getting ready to welcome its first visitors.
A few days ago, I was able to discover this incredible monument still in full activity where nearly 250 people are working daily to restore the place to its former glory. Follow me on a tour of this extraordinary building site.
In short: the history of the Hôtel de la Marine
In the 18th century, a royal square was built in Paris in honour of Louis XV: this was the birth of the present-day Place de la Concorde, where an equestrian statue of the King stood.
To honour this statue, two facades were created on either side of the square: one intended to house the Hôtel des Monnaies (which today houses the Hôtel Crillon), the other intended to house the Crown’s furniture storage facility, the forerunner of the Mobilier National.
In 1789, the Revolution forced Louis XVI to leave Versailles and move to the Tuileries with his government. The Secretary of State for the Navy then settled in the palace of the Garde-Meuble, thus giving it its name of Hôtel de la Marine. For two centuries, the administration of the Navy sat in this sumptuous palace, until 2015 when the Ministry of the Navy left the Place de la Concorde to move to the Hexagone Balard, which now houses the headquarters of the French Armed Forces.
Since then, the administration of the Hôtel de la Marine has been entrusted to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux with the aim of restoring it and opening it to the public.
The restoration of the Hôtel de la Marine
The occupation of the monument by the Naval Staff profoundly transformed the original building, both in terms of its decorations and its organisation. The aim of the restoration was therefore to restore the 18th century atmosphere by presenting the original decorations wherever possible.
Sometimes, underneath the elements added by the Navy, the restorers were able to discover original elements: ceilings, floors or wall decorations which allowed the place to be restored to its original state. By scraping layer by layer (up to 18!), we were able to discover the successive decorations of the monument!
As for the furniture, the inventory of the Garde-Meuble made it possible to identify the furniture that was present in the Hôtel de la Marine in the 18th century. A real treasure hunt was then conducted to find and restore the original furniture or its equivalents.
In one of the interior courtyards, a contemporary glass roof of 330 m² was installed thanks to the sponsorship of Velux to allow better diffusion of light while adding a touch of modernity.
The figures for this extraordinary project are impressive: 500 pieces of woodwork restored, 12,700 m² of renovated surface area, some forty companies mobilised, 1,200 m² of decor cleared and a budget of 130 million euros financed largely by sponsorship and space rental.
What will we see at the Hôtel de la Marine?
The Hôtel de la Marine will be a place for visiting heritage sites, but it has also been designed to be a place for living.
The sumptuous 18th century flats can be discovered accompanied by the “confidant”, an audio headset that will accompany the visitor to offer a scenarised visit and give the impression that one is meeting the intendant of the Garde-Meuble! An exhibition space of 400 m² installed in the former command area will also present works from the Al Thani collection.
“Throughout the project, we have stated our intention to make this palace an inhabited building: it is not a museum but a monument. Our aim is to truly show visitors what 18th-century life was like in apartments promoting excellence in 18th-century decorative arts.”
Delphine Christophe, director of monument conservation and collections at the Centre des monument nationaux and head of the Hôtel de la Marine restoration project
In addition to these heritage spaces, the Hôtel de la Marine will house a bookshop-boutique, a coffee shop, a restaurant as well as coworking spaces in the upper floors which were fitted out by the Navy and are therefore not original.
The opening of the Hôtel de la Marine is scheduled for the next few weeks, and we are looking forward to it!
2 place de la Concorde
75008 PARIS – France
Opening planned in the coming weeks.
Every day from 10.30am to 7pm
Fridays until 10pm
Inner courtyard open from 9am to midnight
Access to lounges & loggia: 13 €.
Grand Tour: €17
Free for children under 26 years old from European Union
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This article was produced in partnership with the Centre des Monuments Nationaux