American History in Paris: 16 Places to See in the City of Light
Leah Walker September 1, 2016

It’s not difficult to find American history in Paris. All you have to do is look around. Streets are named Avenue du Président Kennedy, Rue Benjamin Franklin, Avenue Myron Herrick, and Avenue President Franklin Delano Roosevelt after influential politicians. American musicians, authors, and inventors such as Josephine Baker, George Gershwin, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, and George Eastman have also been immortalized on Paris’ street signs.

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“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Indeed, the Franco-American friendship goes back centuries and continues today. I’m always delighted to discover a little piece of home while in France and eager to learn more. My most recent finding is the Society of the Cincinnati. The oldest American patriotic organization was created in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts. It consisted of thirteen state societies, one for each founding state. However, a 14th was added the next year: France. The primary purpose of the organization was to maintain the allies’ relationship, preserve the history of the Revolutionary War, and unify the thirteen states. George Washington was the first President General of the Society, followed by Alexander Hamilton. The badge of the Cincinnati was the only foreign medal that King Louis XVI allowed his solders to wear. Today, the Society still exists in America and was reintroduced in France in 1925.

In the last four years, I’ve been gathering tidbits about America’s history in Paris. Long and convoluted, it’s the subject for a book, not a blog post. Nonetheless, here are sixteen places you can see American history in Paris.

George Washington Statue

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President George Washington sits in the middle of Place d’Iéna in the 16th.

Even though President George Washington never stepped foot in Paris, his presence is seen in statues and street names. Equestrian Statue of George Washington sits in the middle of Place d’Iéna, in the 16th arrondissement. Erected in 1900, the statue was created by Daniel Chester French, who also created Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. Inscribed on the Washington statue is, “Gift of the women of the United States of America in memory of the brotherly help given by France to their fathers in the fight for Independence.” Supposedly, American solders stationed in Paris during World War I kept sealing President Washington’s sword.

Benjamin Franklin Statue

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Benjamin Franklin sits in Square de Yorktown, next to Avenue Benjamin Franklin.

Probably the most popular American in Paris during the Revolutionary War was none other than Benjamin Franklin, who lived in Paris for over seven years. He was so beloved, that upon his death in 1790, the French National Assembly observed three days of mourning, the first time a political institution ever honored an ‘ordinary’ citizen from another country.

A scholar and politician, Franklin was elected by Congress as a representative at the Court of Versailles and is the only American whose signature appears on the Declaration of Independence {1776}, the Treaty of the Alliance with France {1778}, the Peace Treaty with England {1783}, and the Constitution {1787}. It was these four documents that established the United States, two of which were signed in France.

Created by John J. Boyle, the bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin is a replica of one located in Philadelphia and was given to France by the New England Society in 1906. It sits in the middle of  Square de Yorktown, in the Passy area that Franklin once lived. Rue Benjamin Franklin also runs near the statue.

Treaty of Paris Plaque

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The Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution and was signed in a Saint-Germain-dés-Pres hotel.

On the corner of Rue Jacob and Rue des Saints-Péres, you’ll find a obscure plaque on the wall, between a café and Hotel du Danube Saint Germain. The hotel, formerly known as the York Hotel, was where the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783. The treaty liberated America from Great Britain, ending the American Revolution and granting independence. The plaque is written in French, but translated to English it reads: In this building formerly the York Hotel on September 3, 1783 David Hartley, in the name of the King of England, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, John Adams, in the name of the United States of America, signed the definitive treaty of peace recognizing the independence of the United States.

American Church of Paris

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The sanctuary at the American Church of Paris has hosted many illustrious Americans.

The American Church in Paris dates to 1814 and was the first American church established outside of the country. It was created so that Protestants living in Paris would have an English-speaking place to worship. The first church building was built in 1857 and located on 21 rue de Berri. The church today was dedicated in September 1931, and has seen worshipers such as Woodrow Wilson, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Reverend Jesse Jackson both preached from the pulpit, and the first American Boy Scout Troop in Europe was created here.

Statue of Liberty

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On Île aux Cygnes, this was a gift from Americans in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution.

The Statue of Liberty in New York City was a gift to America from France to commemorate the centenary of the American Independence of 1776. In turn, a quarter-size Statue of Liberty was given by the American community in Paris to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. Funny enough, the dedication ceremony took place on the Fourth of July, rather than July 14th. Inscribed on Lady Liberty’s tablet is “IV Juillet 1776 – XIV Juillet 1789,” which are the dates of the American Independence and storming of the Bastille. Facing west toward New York City, the statue is located on the southern end of Île aux Cygnes, near Pont de Grenelle.

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See one Lady Liberty at Musée des arts et Métiers.

During the making of America’s Statue of Liberty, other original statues were cast and sent to cities all over France, including Nice, Poitiers, and Paris. Other than the large version on Île aux Cygnes, Lady Liberty also resides in Musée de Orsay and Musée des arts et Métiers. This industrial design museum is located in the 3rd arrondissement and features an original model of the Statue of Liberty at the courtyard entrance.

Thomas Jefferson Statue

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See Jefferson at Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor, just across the Seine from the Tuileries.

Before becoming the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson also served as America’s first Minister to France, living in Paris from 1784–1789. Dedicated on July 4, 2006, the Thomas Jefferson statue was a gift from the Florence Gould Foundation, which supports French/American exchange and friendship, and Alec and Guy Wildenstein on the 180th anniversary of Jefferson’s death. It’s located on the Left Bank, in the 7th arrondissement, near Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. The statue is also very close to Palais de Salm, which inspired Monticello, Jefferson’s home in Virginia. In addition to the statue, there’s also a plaque at the corner of Rue de Berri and 92 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, placed by the University of Virginia, to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of its founding by Thomas Jefferson.

American Cathedral in Paris

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The American Cathedral in Paris is located in the 8th arrondissement.

This Episcopal church in Paris dates to the 1830s, with American Episcopalians meeting for services at the Hôtel Matignon’s garden pavilion. The first church building was located on Rue Bayard and dedicated in 1864. During the 1870s, Dr. John B. Morgan {cousin of J.P. Morgan) was the rector, raising money for a new church. The current church on Avenue George V was originally owned by the half-brother of Emperor Napoléon III. Built in less than four years, the first services took place in 1886.

Marshall Plan Commemoration Plaque

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There also is a French version of the plaque on Hôtel de Talleyrand.

The Marshall Plan was an American initiative that helped rebuild Western Europe’s economies after World War II. The plaque to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Plan’s signing can be seen on Hôtel de Talleyrand, on Rue de Rivoli, in the northeast corner of Place de la Concorde. The building is owned by the U.S. government and was once the site of the United States consulate. It was designed by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin, who designed the Arc de Triomphe, and Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who designed the Petit Trianon in Versailles and Place de la Concorde.

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Spot the plaque on Rue de Rivoli, just near the entrance to the Concorde metro.

French diplomat Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord bought the building in 1812 for his Parisian residence. After Talleyrand’s death, it was owned by Baron James-Mayer de Rothschild, until 1950, when it was purchased by the United States. The building was the European headquarters of the Marshall Plan from 1948-1951, then was used as American government offices until 2007. The George C. Marshall Center is located on the second floor and was restored in 2007 thanks to money from private donors.

Place des États-Unis

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Thomas Jefferson is responsible for bringing the French fry to America.

Place des Etats-Unis originally was named Place de Bitche, after a village in northeastern France. In 1881, the name was officially changed, when an American ambassador, Levi P. Morton, moved in to #3 and created an American embassy. A garden that was based on the design of New York’s Battery Park was made, along with Thomas Jefferson Square.

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The memorial can be seen on the eastern side of Place des États-Unis.

The Memorial to the American Volunteers was dedicated on July 4, 1923 to the Americans who volunteered to fight in the service of France during World War I. Created by Jean Boucher, the memorial was inspired by soldier and poet, Alan Seegler, whose name is inscribed, along with twenty-three other French Foreign Legion members, on the back.

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The soldier was created in the likeness of Alan Seeger.
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The names of the fallen French Foreign Legion are inscribed on the back of the memorial.

On the small sides of the statue’s base are excerpts from Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France, a poem that Seeger wrote just before his death:

“They did not pursue worldly rewards; they wanted nothing more than to live without regret, brothers pledged to the honor implicit in living one’s own life and dying one’s own death. Hail, brothers! Goodbye to you, the exalted dead! To you, we owe two debts of gratitude forever: the glory of having died for France, and the homage due to you in our memories.”

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Myron T. Herrick was an American ambassador that helped establish the American hospital in Neuilly.
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Horace Wells, an American dentist, was a pioneer in the use of anesthesia.
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A replica of this statue was donated to New York City and placed in Morningside Park in Manhattan.

It was publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, who commissioned the statue of General George Washington and Lafayette during the American Revolution. Made by Statue of Liberty creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue was dedicated and placed in Place des États-Unis in 1895 as a reminder of the Franco-American friendship.

Flame of Liberty

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Contrary to what some believe, the Flame of Liberty is not a memorial to Princess Diana.

Located just above the Tunnel du Pont de l’Alma, on the right bank, is the Flame of Liberty. The gilt copper flame is an exact replica from the Statue of Liberty in New York City, given to Paris in 1989 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the International Herald Tribune, an English-language newspaper.The Flame also was given in appreciation for the Statue of Liberty restoration work performed three years prior. Tragically, the Tunnel du Pont de l’Alma was also the location of Princess Diana’s death, which has led to make-shift memorials around the statue.

Lafayette Statue

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Statues of Lafayette are seen throughout France and the United States.

Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette was a hero, both in France and in the United States. At age 19, Lafayette left his home country to help the American rebels in 1771. He asked for no wages, yet took up arms against the British, and became loyal to George Washington. Honored by the American Congress, Lafayette returned to France, convincing Louis XVI and his Foreign Minister to send help to the United States. Successful, he sailed back to America aboard the Hermione, where he would play an important role in helping defeat the British in the Battle of Yorktown. He became lifelong friends with America’s first president, even naming his son, George Washington Lafayette.

The monument of Lafayette is located along the Cours Albert 1st, between Pont des Invalides and Pont de Alma, near the Grand Palais. A gift from five million American school children, the statue was dedicated in 1908 and stood in front of the Louvre, before it was moved to make room for the glass pyramid. There is an inscription on one side in English and the other side in French, honoring Lafayette for being a statesman on two continents.

Pershing Hall

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At the hotel’s entrance, you can see the seal of the American Legion.

West Point graduate, John J. Pershing, was named Major General by President Woodrow Wilson upon America’s entry into World War I. In the spring of 1917, Pershing arrived into Paris, where he was given free reign in decision making. Because of his outstanding service during the war, Congress and the president created and bestowed the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, the highest rank possible.

The building now known as Pershing Hall was built by the Count of Paris at the end of the 18th century. Pershing used the building as his war headquarters from 1917 through 1919, when it became the American Legion Paris, also called ParisPost #1. The American Legion bought the building in 1928 to honor Pershing, before changing hands again in the 1930s to the American government. Pershing Hall had a school and shop where wealthy Parisians bought American products like Coca-Cola and gum.

In 1991, the building’s ownership was transferred to the Department of Veterans Affairs, after it had been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. In 1998, a 99-year lease was signed with a French company that spent millions renovating it. Today, it’s a five-star hotel. Commemorative World War I plaques dedicated by Harvard and Yale can still be seen in the hotel’s hallways.

Suresnes American Cemetery

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Soldiers, both Christian and Jews, are buried in Suresnes. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Located just west of Paris in the town of Suresnes, is an American cemetery. Originally the final resting place to 1,565 American soldiers who died in World War I, it also has 24 unknown soldiers from World War II. In the chapel, there are bronze plaques engraved with the names of the 974 soldiers missing from World War I. Dedicated in 1937, this 7.5 acre cemetery is located on a hill overlooking Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial

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Lafayette Escadrille Memorial is named after Marquis de Lafayette, a hero in both countries. (Wikipedia)

Located outside of Paris in Marnes-la-Coquette, the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial honors the American pilots that volunteered to fly with the French military both before and after American’s entry into World War I. Approximately 200 American combat pilots nicknamed the “Lafayette Flying Corps” flew for the French. After the U.S.A. entered the war, some transferred, creating what would eventually become the U.S. Air Force. In 1916, a squadron called “Escadrille Lafayette” was assembled and consisted of only Americans, an attempt to drum up support for the Allies. Before the end of World War I, 68 out of the 200 died in combat.

The Lafayette Escadrille Memorial honors these volunteer pilots, as well as the long time Franco-American friendship. On Memorial Day, the American and French Air Forces hold a joint ceremony at the memorial to pay homage to the volunteers. Today, Escadrille Lafayette squadrons still exist in the French Air Force, as well as the United States Air Force.

Palace of Versailles

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The bedroom of Louis XVI was where the gold candelabra was kept.

As the home of King Louis XVI, Versailles was the setting of many meetings and decisions on America’s road to independence. In 1778, Benjamin Franklin was received at the Court of Versailles, and on November 30, 1782, the Americans and English signed the Treaty of Versailles, helping to end the Revolutionary War {the final treaty was signed in Hotel York in Saint-Germain-des-Prés}. A gold candelabra with French and American symbols was kept in the king’s private chamber to commemorate the Battle of Yorktown victory against the British.

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Paintings such as this one of Washington and Lafayette can be seen at Versailles. (Wikipedia)

The Franco-American relations at Versailles didn’t end with the Revolution. In the 20th century, American James Gordon Bennett Jr. {editor of the International Herald Tribune}, donated 25,000 Franks for the restoration for the 18th-century rooms, while John D. Rockefeller Jr. gave over 23 million Franks in 1924 and 1927 to restore the palace after the war. World War I ended when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Treaty of Versailles. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Regan all made official visits to Versailles.

Currently at the Palace of Versailles, an exhibition called “Versailles and the American Revolution” is running until October 2, 2016. In parallel with the 240th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the exhibition is located in the Gallery of the Great Battles and shows the relationship between France, America, and Great Britain through art, relics, and historical research.

Texas Embassy

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The only evidence left from the Texas embassy is this plaque.

I couldn’t have a round up of historical American sites in Paris, without including the Texas embassy in Place Vendôme. Most people don’t realize, but Texas was an independent nation from 1836-1845. France was the very first country to recognize Texas as independent, hence the embassy, which was opened in 1842. Now the building is home to the five-star Hôtel de Vendôme. Located to the right of the hotel’s entrance is a plaque commemorating the embassy. On a side note, there was also a Texas embassy in London, and the former French embassy still exists in Austin.

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Find the old Texas embassy just off Place Vendôme.

American novelist and poet, Gertrude Stein famously said, “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” I can’t think of a better way to describe my feelings of being an expat in France. Though I’ve chosen to make my home in Paris, I remain a proud American. I also recognize that America wouldn’t be what it is today without a little help from its French friend {and vice versa}.

God bless America and Vive la France!

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Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for four years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

45 Comments

  1. Wow, i am surprised how much love is there for Washington and Jefferson in Paris… I never knew, actually never knew much of this….some cool history, .thanks for sharing…
    I’ll admit, I half wanted to see a Henry Miller street sign, but my big surprise was Texas Embassy… that must bring a smile to a Texan.
    Stay Historic, Craig

    1. Jefferson and Franklin spent a lot of time in Paris, which influenced so much about the development of America. It’s interesting that America was a republic before France. The Declaration of Independence was written before the Declaration of Man. Many French and Americans believe that France preceded the US in democracy and all of those great ideals, but the 13 colonies put that into place first…ironically with the help of King Louis XVI. 😉

  2. We’ve visited Paris many times and have only seen a few of these. Can’t wait to go back and visit some of these, particularly the place where the Treaty of Paris was signed. Thanks so much for the lesson in American/French history!

    1. You’re welcome! The Treaty of Paris plaque is about 75 meters from my flat. I walked right by it for at least three months before I ever noticed. That’s one of the things I love about Paris. There’s always something new to discover, even on a street you walk every day.

  3. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit Paris, I learn and see something new everytime. Really enjoyed this different focus on the American links to this great city. Beautiful photos also.

  4. I was preparing to notice how many places we both visited in Paris. And… from your list, I only visited the Versailles Palace. Lovely statues in Paris – I added them for my next trip there!

  5. wow, this is impressive, I knew that connections were deep, but all those statues and other landmarks really speak of a wonderful history and relationship. Thanks for sharing all these places with us.

  6. I had no idea so much American history can be found in Paris. Very cool! Adding all of these places to our bucket list when we visit Paris! Will be a great history lesson for the kids and us :).

  7. I knew of a few of these, but there are many more pieces of American history in Paris that I didn’t know about. The old Texas embassy is really cool.

  8. I must be a good American Francophile because I knew almost all of this! But there were some surprises so I loved reading through this! And my favorite from the list is the Memorial to the American Volunteers. I just think it’s so lovely. And I also think it was so courageous what those men did, the first ones who fought not be being conscripted but by volunteering.

  9. I recently learned that the American flag flies over Lafayette’s grave in a small Paris cemetery. Apparently even during the occupation the Nazis did not remove it.

  10. We recognize our long history and alliance with Great Britain, but sometimes forget or don’t even realize the deep connection to France, our oldest ally. I believe it was the HBO series about John Adams that shines light on some of these rich connections that were so vital during the formation of the United States. I think this is an awesome idea for a book. I look forward to the day I get to read it.

  11. This is rather fascinating, especially the Embassy of Texas. I knew Texas was an independent nation at one point but never would have guessed that there would be a Texas Embassy in another country. Fitting for you, of course.

  12. This is awesome. Thanks, I have now added 3 new things to see when I return to Paris. I am surprised that the grave of the Maquis de Lafayette at Picpus Cemetery was not included. The U.S. flag has flown over Lafayette’s grave since since the end of WWI. The flag is changed every year on July 4th.

  13. Sorry I didn’t include this originally, but a very interesting side note to me is the fact that the flag was continued to fly during the Nazis occupation of Paris. Amazing.

  14. Thanks for showing sites in France that some people may not know about. I saw several that I never saw or didn’t know the story behind. I am reading David McCullough’s Greater Journey. It’s interesting to see the reasons why Early Americans traveled to France. McCullough has really gotten me back into American history.

  15. Wow! I knew that French and American history was so intertwined but I never realized how many examples of it you could find in Paris. You definitely showed me a lot of places that I never even knew existed. My girlfriend and I have an upcoming trip to Paris so I’m totally going to drag her around and check out some of these different sites. That Texas Embassy plaque is amazing! Thanks for sharing – your photos are incredible and got me a lot more excited for the upcoming trip.

  16. Great resource. This is now part of my European bucket list. Stationed in Germany for a few more months so need to schedule the ICE train soon 🙂 Thanks again.

  17. I would be interested to know if you know anything about where Franklin and Jefferson lived while in Paris?

    1. Franklin lived in many places, including Paris and Versailles. Mostly, he lived in Passy at 59 Rue Raynouard, 75016. It’s known as Hôtel de Valentinois. Jefferson had four residences, including one near the Palais Royal, Rue Bonaparte in the 6th, in the 9th, and on the corner of Rue de Berri and the Champs-Élysées.

  18. So grateful for this incredible post, can’t wait to add many of the places you mention to my travel itinerary! Thank you for all the research you’ve shared.

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