In 2005, La Samaritaine, one of Paris' iconic Belle-Epoque department stores, closed its doors indefinitely after failing to meet safety codes (although many suspected the closure had more to do with losses suffered by the department store since the 1970's, and luxury goods owner LVMH deciding the venture was no longer profitable enough). Parisians mourned the loss of one of their favorite spots for shopping and sipping tea on the vast panoramic terrace. There were rumors that the gorgeous building, blending Art Nouveau and Art Deco elements and designed by Henri Sauvage, might be torn down, robbing the banks of the Seine of one of its treasured edifices.
But it turns out the building is getting a new incarnation after all: by 2014, La Samaritaine should re-open, this time as a hybrid Art-Nouveau hotel with 80 rooms, shopping center, office and apartment complex. The facade is being fitted with new glass, and the inside entirely renovated.
As for the department store, the owners claim there will be nearly as much space allotted to shopping, since previously only a fraction of the available space in the building was used. It's probably safe to assume the same mix of brands will be on offer in the fashion section, but it seems unlikely that a full-fledged department store format will be favored this time.
What of the beloved panoramic tearoom? Since the main riverside building will be reserved for the new hotel, it remains unclear whether the 5th floor tearoom facing the Seine will be revived: officials have hinted at the possibility of the terrace remaining open for visits, but no further details have been unveiled. For the time being, you'll have to content yourself with panoramic terraces at the Centre Pompidou, Printemps department store, or at the lovely Institut du Monde Arabe, designed by Jean Nouvel.
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Image credit: 2005 moppet63355. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.