Villetaneuse is partly shaped by small social housing dwellings, as Jean Jaurès would have loved to imagine them and, let’s not forget that the sculptor César had his workshop in the town.
Several theories have been given to the origin of the name of this town including Villa Tanosa, where tan was treated from the bark of oak trees planted in the nearby woods. Villetaneuse was a vegetable garden village at the beginning of the former century, a working class village in the thirties, before becoming the town it is today. Images show how it was before the village grew, at the time when there was nothing but a hamlet and a chapel in the middle of the woods : and this statue, an elegant wooden statue of the Virgin Mary draped in a golden cloak. The statue, found in a chapel on the road to Saint-Leu, restored by the Beaux-Arts in Cambrai, is conserved at the brand new Saint-Liphard Church – remarkable in the harmony of its forms and the beauty of its modern stained glass windows. The bronze bell is the only element of the former religious building of 1857, which was destroyed after its ceiling fell in.
Past images of the village at the turn of the former century, which accounted for about 800 inhabitants, include "the castle" located on 4 avenue Victor Hugo, which is today a cultural center. Constructed for a gypsum quarry owner, it was a bourgeois mansion with a large brick balcony, narrow windows English style, a carved wooden staircase from the late nineteenth century and painted coffered ceilings. Take a look too at the small houses located in the area of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, part of a social housing project that had been Jean Jaurès' dream. The thirties-style school complex "Jean-Baptiste Clément" made with bricks, located on the square of the same name, was renovated in 1996. Along with its allotment gardens at the end of rue Henri-Barbusse and behind the school Anne Frank, they are a reminder of the last vestiges of that period. There are some postwar images, slowly disappearing, such as César’s workshop, in the former steel factory « the workshops in Villetaneuse », on avenue de la Division Leclerc. However, a beautiful Venus created by the famous sculptor in 1962 survived and now sits enthroned in the heart of the city.
The buildings reflect the changing ways of living quarters during the second half of the former century: the Maurice Grandcoing housing project, a first and much needed post war urban high-rise block with its three towers; the Ozanam housing project where buildings were already limited to three floors; the Renadie housing project, with its overhanging, angular terraces. Situated in the heart of the city, it is, along with Ivry and la Maladrerie in Aubervilliers, one of the three fleurons of this kind of architecture, built in the seventies and eighties, inherited from the German Bauhaus style and where people from all over the world are drawn to visit.
Later, new buildings of smaller size appeared in the town center, like the serrated Flemish style constructions designed by the architect Lyonnet which surrounded the buildings, the elegant City Hall designed by Nina Schuch. Villetaneuse University, Paris XIII was built in 1970 in the middle of a large orchard. Memories of the town where it all began, the shadows of dozens of pear trees lined up along avenue Division Leclerc are a discreet reminder of this.
What to visit around Villetaneuse: Épinay-sur-Seine and its heritage, the town next door. Do not miss the industrial site guided tours in Ile-de-France. Visits are programmed all year round in the different towns in the region. You can also participate in various walks and guided tours, pre-booked, in other towns around Paris, as well as cultural and creational visits organised by Plaine Commune. In summer days, embark on cruises on the waterways of Greater Paris to discover and enjoy the beautiful landscape or walk in the Villetaneuse landscape park.
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