Edward Forman, a soldier during World War I in the 29th division documented his travels through France by sending postcards to his girlfriend, and future wife. These postcards show a France that was not war-torn France, but a fascinating urban landscape. To compare the images in Forman’s postcards to current maps of today, we are able to see how France has changed since World War I. Comparing past and present landscapes allows for the understanding of how France changed after the war and history of France’s changing landscape.
Map of Forman's Travels
This map shows the places Forman traveled as represented by the postcard he sent to Mae. There are multiple points in Rennes, Bourges, Paris, and Le Mans. Zooming in will show the geography of the different points. By clicking on the icons, additional information about the selected areas. From this view, it is evident Forman travelled quite a bit around France during the war. Many spots he visited were Cathedrales. Several postcards had messages to Mae, while others were blank and undated.
Historic Preservation in France
Ed Forman visited several places during his time in France. Many buildings in Forman’s postcards remained unchanged. There were, however, some name changes that occurred and different spellings. Overall, France appears to be successful in historic preservation. According to an article in the Washington Post, France is known for preserving and repurposing old buildings.
So what does this entail?
Historic preservation is targeted towards historic landmarks, parks or buildings to protect them from destruction. These landmarks represent something significant to either the community it is in, the city, state, region or even the country. For example, The United States has a list of historic landmarks. One in particular is the Betsy Ross house. This house has remained relatively unchanged and continues to bring visitors from around the world to learn about its history. Historic preservation can either keep the building as is or repurpose the building by keeping the facade and using the building for a new purpose. According to the American Historical Association, historic preservation has grown significantly and continues to save historic buildings and sites.
In France, this trend is very apparent. Many of the buildings have stayed they same, and several appear on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Follow along Forman’s adventures to see how buildings have changed and remained the same.
From this we can see Le Harve was a bustling spot for social activity. Today, Le Harve has been completely transformed. Difficult to spot the actual location, all along the coast, is more urban architecture and landscape. The is very little beach available to explore.
Postcard from Tom Mannes to Ed Forman on May 16, 1919. Reverse of postcard is illegible.
Pinpointing the exact location was difficult. The takeaway is that the landscape of Le Harve changed dramatically. There does not appear to as much beach available for people to socialize.
Le Pont en X
This postcard was sent in 1918. Difficult to locate today, Le Pont en X was a bridge that cut through Le Mans. Appearing to have been destroyed there is little information available about this bridge. Images taken from the surrounding area show no signs of the bridge’s existence.
Le Theatre ve des Promenades de Jacobins
This short video highlights plans to renovate the former Le Theatre ve des Promenades de Jacobins, which is now called Place des Jacobins. Another location that was difficult to find, La Theatre ve des Promenades de Jacobins appears to have been destroyed after World War I. The postcard provided was undated with no letter to Mae.
Cathedrale St. Gaiten
A beautiful that has been relatively untouched since World War I, St. Gaiten’s Cathedrale still stands in Tours, France. Forman sent this postcard on September 3, 1918. A new addition to the urban landscape surrounding the cathedral is cars. From this it is evident that the urban landscape changed dramatically and became more modernized. Dedicated to its first bishop, Saint Gaiten, this cathedral was erected in 1170. It was eventually burned down in 1166, and rebuilt and still standing in its place. Easy to find, Saint Gaiten’s Cathedral is a testament to historic preservation. It is important to conserve historic architecture.
Much of the letter Forman wrote to Mae was illegible but it appeared that he was transferred to a new job. It is unclear how much time was spent in Tours.
Mont Saint-Michel, appearing to have undergone relatively few changes, similar to Saint Gaiten’s Cathedral, is a magnificent structure standing between Normandy and Brittany. Known as the “Wonder of the West,” Mont Saint-Michel is now on the UNESCO World Heritage Center List. Difficult to get a good image of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel is now a tourist attraction open to all.
La Maison de Duguay-Trouin
This postcard was undated with no note to Mae. It was also difficult to locate the specific building in the postcard as it appears to be a street and not an exact location. Google Maps search showed a drastic change to the landscape. The street appears to have undergone several changes. This street was the birthplace of Rene Duguay-Troiun. One of the houses on the street was Rene’s, but there is no indication as to which one.
Hotel de Ville
Forman wrote in his postcard to Mae that Hotel de Ville was now city hall. Still situated in the same place, Hotel de Ville is still the building city hall finds itself. Reconstruction was done in in the 1800s, long before Forman visited France.
Forman sent this postcard to Mae on October 20, 1918.
Across the street from Hotel de Ville. Several markers of urbanization surrounding city hall
More changes around Hotel de Ville.
Le Gare de l’Ouest-Etat
Difficult to locate because of the translation, La Gare is a train station in Rennes. Looking a little different than the station during World War I, it still stands in its original location. Now with more modern architecture, La Gare continues to operate.
Portails de la Cathedrale
Sent on October 19, 1918, this postcard depicted the Bourges Cathedral. Still operating today, the cathedral is a significant piece of Gothic architecture. Making UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992, the Bourges Cathedral continues to rack up the numbers of visitors and tourists.
This video describes the heritage of the Bourges Cathedrale.
Le Palais Jacques-Coeur
The statue of Jacques Coeur adjacent to the palace.
Standing as it did during World War I, Notre Dame continues to remain a marker of French religion. Not to be confused with Notre Dame, Indiana, the Notre Dame Cathedral still looks exactly the same. This church should also not be confused with Notre Dame in Paris. According to a report in leBerry, a French news source, L’Eglise Notre Dame is in danger. Facing stability problems, the church needs renovations. Worship is obstructed and there does not appear to be a solution to the problem.
Now Sercice Départemental d’Incendie et de Secours, there appears to have been few changes, despite the name change. It is now a fire station in Rennes. It was difficult to find what Caserne St-Georges was during World War I. This postcard from Forman was also blank.
This Roman Catholic Church has also undergone little to no changes. Inaugurated in 1944, Rennes Cathedral experience some changes to the facade. Because of the unstable foundation, the cathedral was demolished in 1539 and eventually rebuilt.
La Caserne de Bon Pastuer
Locating the exact location was difficult. From the Google image it is evident that the landscape surrounding la Caserne has changed completely. There are now cars and side streets. When translated, it means barracks of the Good Shepherd. With this translation, it is possible that this building housed soldiers during the war. The postcard has no indication of the purpose of the building.
L Hopital de Pontchailou
Similar to la Caserne, l’Hopital has undergone dramatic change. Trying to locate the garden depicted in Forman’s postcard was extremely difficult. This is still a functioning hospital that serves Rennes. It is also the Rennes University Hospital.
Le Palais des Muses et le Pont St-Georges
Know known as Musee Des Beaux-Arts de Rennes, the structure does not appear to have changed much. There are two bridge running over the river. This made it a little difficult to get the exact bridge in the postcard.