Work on the construction of the Bois de Vincennes (the forest of Vincennes) from the last remains of the forest to the East of Paris known as the Silva Lanchonia began in 1860. It was Napoleon III's desire to offer a place of recreation to the working class inhabitants of the XIIth and XIIIth arrondissements and the workers of the faubourg St Antoine area. Just like for the Bois de Boulogne, Alphand designed a landscape garden in the style of the period, planting many exotic trees and arranging artificial lakes and fountains.
Today, the majority of the vestiges of the Second Empire are to found around the Alphand lakes, the Lac Daumesnil and the Lac des Minimes. The thirty-acre (12-hectare) Lac Daumesnil has two interconnecting islands in the centre, the île de Bercy and the île de Reuilly, and these islands are linked to the land by suspension bridges.
A kiosque, a building for preparing snacks, and sales chalets were built, and for the Universal Exhibition of 1867, a Swiss chalet bought by the Paris city council was placed on the île de Reuilly. The aim was to replicate on a more modest scale the buildings in the Bois de Boulogne – a race course was even opened in 1863. But the Bois de Vincennes was never to enjoy the same reputation for elegance as its western Paris counterpart.
Other typical Alphand motifs appear here, notably the small temple close to the bridge. This temple – a rotunda with Doric columns and mounted on a grotto – is a companion piece to that in the Buttes-Chaumont and was also designed by Davioud.
Furthermore, on the route de la Ferme, there is the Breuil Municipal School of Horticulture and Arboriculture, a building designed by the empress Eugenie, an eloquent expression of the empress' interest in the project.
Discover more about the Bois de Vincennes and the other green spaces provided for Paris by the Second Empire. Take a wander around our itinerary “Parks and Gardens: Parisian strolls of the Second Empire”.