The station

La gare d'Orsay en cours de construction© Musée d'Orsay - Fonds Urphot - DR
On the eve of the 1900 World Fair, the French government ceded the land to the Orleans railroad company, who, disadvantaged by the remote location of the Gare d'Austerlitz, planned to build a more central terminus station on the site of the ruined Palais d'Orsay. In 1897, the company consulted three architects: Lucien Magne, Emile Bénard and Victor Laloux. The project was a challenging one due to the vicinity of the Louvre and the Palais de la Légion d'honneur: the new station needed to be perfectly integrated into its elegant surroundings. Victor Laloux, who had just completed the Hôtel de Ville in Tours, was chosen as winner of the competition in 1898.

Anonyme
 Sous le plancher métallique de la gare d'Orsay
 1899
 aristotype (épreuve au citrate)
 H. 11,9 ; L. 16,9 cm
 Paris musée d'Orsay, don de la SNCF, 1986
AnonymeSous le plancher métallique de la gare d'Orsay© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
The station and hotel, built within two years, were inaugurated for the World Fair on July 14th, 1900. Laloux chose to mask the modern metallic structures with the façade of the hotel, which, built in the academic style using finely cut stone from the regions of Charente and Poitou, successfully blended in with its noble neighbours. Inside, all the modern techniques were used: ramps and lifts for luggage, elevators for passengers, sixteen underground railtracks, reception services on the ground floor, and electric traction. The open porch and lobby continued into the great hall which was 32 metres high, 40 metres wide and 138 metres long.

The Gare d'Orsay© Musée d'Orsay
From 1900 to 1939, the Gare d'Orsay was the head of the southwestern French railroad network. The hotel received numerous travellers in addition to welcoming associations and political parties for their banquets and meetings. However, after 1939, the station was to serve only the suburbs, as its platforms had become too short for the modern, longer trains that appeared with the progressive electrification of the railroads.

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