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Built in 1863-1866 by A. Manuel (1814-1891), the Hôtel du Département has the appearance of a beautiful 18th century mansion between the courtyard and garden. Its interior décor, however, is altogether characteristic of Second Empire eclecticism.
When barely completed, it was occupied by King Wilhelm I of Prussia in the aftermath of the Franco- Prussian War in 1871, shortly before he was proclaimed Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany in the Palace’s Hall of Mirrors; later it became home to the first presidents of the Third Republic: A. Thiers, General Mac-Mahon and then J. Grévy all took refuge in Versailles from the Paris Commune.
- The Place Charost - This square takes its name from a mansion that used to occupy the far side, alongside the old salt storehouse and salt-tax office. Nowadays lined with pleasant restaurant terraces, the square used to be the heart of the highly popular and lively Bel-Air district : the stagecoach office, situated in what is now Rue Saint-Simon between 1683 and 1734, was the point of departure of public transport for anyone having business with the Court. Intended for all the nosy people who simply wanted to get close to the King, whether at Versailles or any other of the Royal residences, it gave rise to a constant toing and froing in the neighbourhood. A different kind of sound entertainment was provided by the presence of the King’s kennels where the police headquarters now stands.
- The Law Courts Building - It is located just aside the Hôtel du Département. On this site once stood the official residence of the Master of the Royal Hounds, who with his staff occupied it from 1792 until 1800, when the building was taken over by the Civil and Magistrates Courts. Rebuilt in 1888 by A. Petit, the Law Courts building has seen some famous trials like that of serial killer Henri Landru. Today Versailles remains the centre of an important judicial district, with its Magistrates’ Courts, District Courts, Commercial Courts, Administrative Court, its Court of Appeal, its Higher Administrative Court and its Court of Assizes