Photographer's Note

Third in a short series of pictures taken inside the Lavoir du Loubeau in Melle, Deux-Sèvres.

The following information on the history of lavoirs in France is take from the Shirley-Jones Gallery web site (

Dating as far back as the 1500s, lavoirs take a wide range of architectural form based in part on the wealth of a community or region, but more significantly on the source of water to be used. Some occur along rivers, while in drier climates they are dug into hillsides or into the earth to access the water table.

In the 19th Century, with an emphasis on hygiene, the French government issued grants to villages to build wash houses for the control of cholera. Thus, the lavoir became as important as schools or the town hall. Architects, schooled or practicing in Paris were commissioned. They drew from Egyptian, classical and Neo-Palladian sources for their designs.

In active use through the middle of the 20th century, lavoirs were displaced by the advent of running water and the emergence of home appliances. In active use only 70 years ago, the lavoirs are now mostly abandoned and in various states of disrepair.

The Shirley-Jones Gallery continues its winter exhibition schedule with photographs and an installation project by French architect Mireille Roddier. The subject of the entire exhibition is Lavoirs, the historical communal rural laundry washhouses of France.

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Additional Photos by Stephen Nunney (snunney) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 9190 W: 63 N: 25847] (114509)
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