At a time when architecture borrows its happiest inspirations from the art of building barracks and hospitals, we must be grateful to the people who, unable to rebuild the great and beautiful buildings of the past, nevertheless wanted to give their homes a form and appearance which, without aiming for the grandiose and majestic, could avoid monotony and achieve elegance. It was in Switzerland that the
Switzerland that the chalet originated, and it was from this curious and interesting country that our artists brought back the first models.
A good national taste preserved the first builders from those shapeless and ignoble thatched cottages of our mountains, which the most realistic painters themselves despair of poetising in their landscapes.
Switzerland has not retained a monopoly on chalets. Fashion has sown them in all the aristocratic resorts such as Saint-Germain, Ville-d'Avray, etc., and the road that joins Enghien to Montmorency is now a long exhibition of Swiss architecture.
The Champ de Mars has some very successful models. A few steps from the Rue d'Alsace, not far from the Pavillon des Cloches, you will see an elegant chalet bearing the modest sign of a laundry. A few steps separate the floor from the ground and protect it from humidity. The ground floor is of real interest only to those mortals who have to launder the clothes of their fellow men. But to get to the first floor, remember this is a cottage, you have to go out and take one of the outside stairs that lead up to the front door. The two staircases with their cut-out banisters lead to a gallery that runs around the house. It is on this gallery, whose banister is - I will not say it - cut and festooned, that the rooms of the flats on the first floor open out. The roof protects this gallery from the rain, and serves as a canopy for the inhabitants. If I had to give my opinion of these frail and pretty constructions, I would say that, charming in appearance, if they are a little hot in summer, in winter they make one dream of Spitz-berget Siberia.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée