21 rue Raynouard
The Field Service's Home Away From Home

  "21"

By the summer of 1916, the Field Service had long outgrown its connection with the American Ambulance and needed a legal identity---and a place---of its own. It found a powerful ally in Mrs. Vanderbilt, who by now sat on the Ambulance Committee.

It seems fitting to recall again something of what Mrs. Vanderbilt did for us in France. [...] The severance of the Field Service from the American Ambulance, and its consequent unhampered development, were directly due to her. I crossed in June 1916, after a two weeks return to America, on the Lafayette, on which Mrs. Vanderbilt was also returning. I had the opportunity to talk to her and she promised to meet Andrew at lunch the day after our arrival. During the three hours after that lunch, Andrew described the whole situation to her, and she quickly grasped the problems. A few days later, she accomplished what months of arguing, bickering, and continual cross-purpose had been unable to do, namely, a complete working arrangement under the liaison of Dr. Gros, which gave Andrew a free reign in the management of the Field Service and a complete demarcation of the funds contributed to it.

Stephen Galatti, AFS Bulletin June 1939

From the official minutes of meetings of the Board of Governors of the American Hospital of Paris:

July 12, 1916

"It was duly proposed, seconded and passed:

WHEREAS the Ambulance Committee considering it more expedient that the transportation Committee should be henceforth under the direct supervision of the Board of Governors of the American Hospital.

RESOLVED therefore that Dr. E. Gros be given full authority and responsibility for the Field Service of the American Hospital of Paris and that a Committee composed of Dr. A J. Magnin, F. W. Monahan, and C. S. Philips, shall act in conjunction with Dr. Gros, however, merely as an advisory Board. The Field Service is to be administered as follows:

1) Mr Robert Bacon to act as Treasurer in New-York for all funds that may be given to the Field Service, and Mr. Henry Sleeper to act as assistant-Treasurer in New York, the latter to replace Mr. Hereford in all which concerns the Field Service.

2) An assistant-treasurer of the American Hospital to be appointed in Paris from those who have been active in obtaining funds for the Field Service, for instance Mr. McFaden, with the approval of Mr. Monahan, the books of the assistant-treasurer to be audited by the auditors of the American Hospital.

3) The changing of the quarters for the men of the Field Service is not to be made immediately, the offices to remain where they are, and the men of the Field Service to continue to sleep and eat at the Hospital, it being understood, however, that this state of affairs shall continue for as short a period as practically possible, and that the Field Service will make every endeavor to find new quarters.

4) A new section can be added to the Field Service if the money is contributed for the material, equipment and maintenance for one year, and if the men can be obtained, provided, of course, that this increase in the Field Service is not made at the expense of the efficiency of the other sections already in the field."

5) anonymous gifts possible.

Within the month, the new quarters were found:

 

One answer to the above invitation came from the French officer who originally backed the idea of "foreign sanitary sections" attached to the French Automobile Service:

 Permanent Inspection
Office of the Eastern District

Vittel, 8 July, 1916

Captain DE MONTRAVEL , Permanent Inspeetor
Automobile Service in the Eastern District

TO
Monsieur Piatt Andrew,
Inspeetor-General of the American Ambulances at Neuilly.

Dear Monsieur and friend,-

. . . You know how proud I am of having been the first to appreciate the gallant young men whom your noble-hearted country sent to us, of having succeeded in having your first section sent to Alsatian territory and, lastly, of bearing, as a symbol of honour, the name of Father of thé American Seetions, which was spontaneously bestowed upon me by those noble young men on the day when they learned that they were to go to Alsace.

The sincere friendship of their indefatigable Inspeetor-General is also very precious to me.

My duties have unhappily prevented me from visiting again your fearless sections, which have proved so conclusively by their deeds that I was right when, at the very beginning, I became their sponsor. On the other hand, your own absorbing tasks have compelled you to make your welcome visits very rare.... But to-day your pleasant message revivifies the memory of our close connection, and tightens its bonds afresh.

Thanks, with all my heart, dear Monsieur and friend; remember that you are bound to break your journey at Vittel whenever you pass through, and that such break will give great pleasure to

Faithfully yours
(Signed)
DE MONTRAVEL

 

THE NEW HEADQUARTERS

As a result of the extension of the Field Service of the American Ambulance, the headquarters of the field ambulance sections have been transferred from the Lycée Pasteur, Neuilly-sur-Seine to 21 rue Raynouard, Paris (XVI), and are installed in the beautiful premises generously placed at their disposal for the duration of the war by the Hottinguer family.

This house at Passy has, since the beginning of the last century, been the property of the family of Benjamin Delessert, the great philosopher, who founded the Caisse d'Épargne in Paris. On the extensive neighboring land belonging to him he established a refinery where beetroot sugar was made for the first time. The Emperor Napoleon, as an appreciation of this discovery, created him a Baron of the Empire and Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur.

There exist in the park at Passy three ferruginous springs, the waters of which were famous even in the seventeenth century. Madame de Sévigné speaks of them in a letter to her daughter, dated 1676. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who lived on the edge of the park, speaks in his "Confessions" of taking the waters. Voltaire was also an assiduous visitor. From 1777 to 1785 Benjamin Franklin often came to take the cure, and walked in the shade of these wooded acres. It is even said that he made here his first experiment with a lightning rod. More recently, history recounts that in this same spot Zola wrote his book "Pages d'Amour." The house was occupied for a long time by the Bartholdi family and was frequently visited by the great sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, given to the United States by France. A description of this place is given in a book on "Old Paris" by Georges Cain, and also in a book called "Paris," by André Hallays. The property belongs at the present day to the Hottinguer family and their descendants, heirs of the Delesserts.

"Our New Headquarters" in Friends of France, The Field Service of the American Ambulance described by its members, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1916

 

The day after my baccalauréat, my father took me to the Rue Raynouard, to a charming Directoire house that no longer exists and whose gardens sloped down to the Seine. Great trees leaned over long, winding paths that twined like so many arms around vast lawns where it would have been delightful to sit at the end of a fine day. Everything spoke of times happier than ours. I was sensitive to the melancholy of a place, traces of which would be sought vainly nowadays in Paris. At the bottom of the gardens, drawn up neatly in front of the iron gate that led to the Quai de Passy, I saw some twenty ambulances painted iron gray and adorned by a red cross. The last of these cars was mine.

Julian Green. The Green Paradise. Autobiography, vol I (1900-1916). [English translation] New York: Marion Boyars, 1993.


History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II: "Field Service Haunts and Friends"

"TWENTY-ONE RUE RAYNOUARD! What an echo these words will always arouse in the hearts of all of us who came to know the château and especially the beautiful park!"

American Field Service Bulletin, Number 87, April 26, 1919, "Headquarters Number"

"Since the war has gone into the annals of the past, the American Field Service Headquarters at 21, Rue Raynouard, has at last come into its own. On the short stays while passing thru Paris en permission, we came to know its value as a headquarters and as a home. Its easy living -rooms and parlors, its fine dining rooms, its comfortable quarters have offered us a touch of the homelike atmosphere we have missed so long. The comradeship and good-fellowship found there worked to bind all the more closely the ties which by a community of spirit and interest link together the old "conducteurs pour la France."

"To those men who were demobilized in France, to those stationed here, and to those attending Paris universities, Rue Raynouard has come to mean even more. Members from every branch of service and of every rank were here gathered together in a spirit of fellowship, friendliness and equality. Rue Raynouard at last truly became 'The Field Service Club.' "

Louis Bromfield, The Green Bay Tree, 1924. (excerpts):

" The house, after a fashion, turned its back upon the world, concealing its beauties from the eye of the random passerby, preserving them for the few who were admitted by the humble and unpretentious door that swung open upon the cobble stones of the Rue Raynouard. To the world it showed the face of a petite bourgeoise. To its friends it revealed the countenance of an eighteenth century marquise. "

 

Postscript:

And writing of "old 21" under date of March 17, Major Galatti says:

"I spent a long afternoon at Rue Raynouard the other day. The Countess was away, but I was allowed to go through the house which is empty. Only a very few of the rooms have been occupied, for a short time, and there are plenty of signs of our occupation. Your office and mine are a little more dusty than they used to be, but seemed ready for us to step in again. And so it was with the whole house. A little more damp, very quiet, but unmistakably the rue Raynouard of the Field Service. it was really fine to see it that way. There is little in Paris to suggest those years any more, but there every minute of it came back."

Steve Galatti, AFS Bulletin, April 1920

The following cable has appeared in the American press:

Paris, Jan. 8---A company with an imposing title, "Paris Marché du Monde" (Paris Market of the World), has been formed here with a view to centralizing on a gigantic scale for trading firms the means of purchase and sale. It has the support of the Paris municipal council and the French and British Chambers of Commerce. The initial capital is 2,000,000 francs.

An immense in building is to be erected along the Quay de Passy, just beyond the Trocadero, with a frontage of 850 feet and a depth of 600 feet. It will contain 5000 showrooms. Firms are being invited to take options on floor space. When half this has been allotted the company will raise 160,000,000 francs on a mortgage loan. Building will start immediately afterwards and it is estimated that twenty-eight months will suffice to have everything ready.

Paris has been chosen for the enterprise as the geographical centre of Europe.

And a little later came the picture, on the opposite page, of the noble enterprise which is soon to transform and adorn our old parc in Passy.


What Time may do to our park at Raynouard

Shades of Madame de Sévigné! Shades of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Franklin! Shades of the Boulainvilliers and the Delesserts! Shades of American youths who have lived and dreamed in the mysterious old garden! Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!

Upon receipt of the prospectus of this forthcoming transformation, arrangements were undertaken to place a tablet on the wall of "old 21" with this inscription:

Grâce à la générosité de

M. le Baron Hottinguer
Mme. la Comtesse de la Villestreux
M. and Mme. Henri Hottinguer
M. le Commandant de Monbrison,
Madame Roger de Maleville,

l'hôtel situé au 21 rue Raynouard et ses dépendances avec son magnifique parc étaient, pendant la Grand Guerre, mis gracieusement à la disposition de

THE AMERICAN FIELD SERVICE

une organisation de plusieurs milliers de volontaires Américains qui servirent comme conducteurs d'ambulances et de camions avec les divisions françaises pendant les années avant l'entrée en guerre des Etats-Unis.

Dans le grand parc adjacent, quarante sections de ces volontaires étaient organisées et envoyées au front.

A. Piatt Andrew, AFS Bulletin, April 1920

Memories of "21" in 1989