On the Road and In Your Backyard

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Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter Ragbatz.

Thanks for the opportunity to share part of my world. In the summer of 2017, that world centered on a landmark of 19th century industrial architecture — a mill on the River Marne in the town of Noisiel, France.

The Menier Chocolate Factory, also know as Le Moulin Saulnier, was designed by Jules Saulnier and completed in 1872. It has a strong claim to having been the first metal skeleton building; it predates Chicago’s steel-skeleton skyscrapers by more than a dozen years. Most of the metal structure is visible on the surface of the building, including the diagonal cross-bracing. The visible metal is load-bearing; the brick and ceramic “lozenges” that fills in the lattice created by the diagonals are not structural at all, merely decorative. But what decoration they are, with images, ornaments, and motifs derived from various parts of the cocoa plant and the proud “M” of the Menier company.

Ate the lower levels of the building interior, are some remains of turbine driven machinery that channeled the power of the river into the production of chocolate.

Filed by this mill and other innovations, Menier was the world’s largest manufacturer of chocolate at the time of the 1893 world’s fair in Chicago. There, a man who was then in the caramel business, got an idea. His name was Milton Snavely Hershey.

Le Moulin Saunier, main entrance

This is the main entrance to Le Moulin. Around the time of my first visit to the Mill, I read a description of the facade of Notre-Dame cathedral that described it as a model of harmony and clarity. No less true of this building.

Structure and ornament 1

Iron structural lattice holding “lozenges” or brick and ceramic with cocoa themes. Note cocoa bud above the windows.

View from upstream

The technology to make long beams as strong as the Mill’s designs required was fairly new in 1869 when construction began.

Structure and ornament 2

Cocoa flower ringed by buds.

Clock element

Cocoa pod hour markers! The decoration was relentless.

Montage of roof details

Relentless, I tell you. More pods, more flowers, more lozenge shapes, and a cocoa plant lightning rod.

Mmmm, I wish I could go there right now and explore and then carry on exploring nearby areas of interest – thank you so much!

Thank you so much Ragbatz, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

39 replies
  1. 1

    Not a bad set of pictures, the first one could use a bit of punch(reduced highlights and maybe an increase of some contrast and saturation).

  2. 2
    Mary G says:

    Wow, that building is a work of art. I have never been to Hershey, PA, but I would bet that it’s not nearly as nice to look at. Plus a nice bird!

  3. 3
    Amir Khalid says:

    That building is just awesome.

  4. 4
    raven says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Aren’t you the critic.

  5. 5

    @raven: Ya know, I’m just trying to be helpful.

  6. 6
    Raven says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: seriously what’s the point after they are already posted? I went through all kinds of bullshit just to get mine up and between editing iPhone pictures and then uploading them stuff got lost in translation

  7. 7
    debbie says:

    What a beautiful building! I don’t think people do detail like that anymore.

  8. 8
    debbie says:


    And even then, it depends on how well one’s monitor is calibrated.

  9. 9
    eclare says:

    Wow, gorgeous pictures! Thank you for the history, too.

  10. 10

    @Raven: I don’t know, maybe the photographer can learn to make their picture better. I’ve received constructive criticism on some of my pictures(including suggested changes) from commenters on this here blog. You know what, rather than getting pissed off, I try their suggestions and you know what, sometimes it’s better and I learn something.

    I know there’s sometimes a delay between submitting pics and them appearing(I’ve submitted two sets that haven’t yet seen the light of day), but unless the post is a one-off, constructive criticism can be helpful. I also said that this set is pretty good, just the first picture needs some punch.

  11. 11
    Amir Khalid says:

    Details cost money, alas. Le Moulin Saulnier could have been done without those details for a lot less, I’m sure, but then it wouldn’t have its character or beauty or historic/architectural significance. The unfortunate bean counters’ thinking today is that you can’t list a monetary value for these assets, so fuck details.

  12. 12
    satby says:

    Wonderful pictures and history Ragbatz! I never heard of this building, but what incredible detail! Love it!

  13. 13
    JPL says:

    Amazing pictures of your travels.

  14. 14
    debbie says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Very little has done more damage to civilization than bean counters.

  15. 15
    rikyrah says:

    That was beautiful.
    I love this thread.😄

  16. 16
    Quinerly says:

    Love the pictures. Great narrative. Thank you.

  17. 17
    maurinsky says:

    What a gorgeous building!

  18. 18
    raven says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Fair enough, I’m sorry I said anything.

  19. 19
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @debbie: Au contraire. Double-entry bookkeeping is one of the crowning achievements of pre-Renaissance civilization; in the world of commerce and finance, at least as important as the concept of shared-risk property insurance.

  20. 20
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    The double entry was a Medici thing, as I remember. Possibly as far back as the old man, but more likely an innovation of Cosimo – can’t recall which.

  21. 21
    KS in MA says:

    Wow! Thanks, Ragbatz!

  22. 22
    laura says:

    I heartily approve of the palais du chocolat!
    Can you imagine the smell of it, perfuming the town square and fueling the conversation at cafes. Sheer heaven. (Sudden urge for stash of emergency Thao’s dark chocolate cherry almond bar)….

  23. 23
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: Pre-dates the Medicis by a bit. There’s evidence of double-entry bookkeeping from Florence at the end of the 13th C.

  24. 24
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes: Reference for the obsessives; you know who you are.

  25. 25
    J R in WV says:

    @Le Comte de Monte Cristo, fka Edmund Dantes:

    Pretty sure the first accounting was being done on clay tablets / cuniform / Sumer or Babylon. Probably invented double entry to combat tax fraud on millet payments – millet being used for the first beer…

  26. 26
    frosty says:

    We’re midway through our 4th Annual Snowbird Road Trip wandering around Florida in February. We camp in state parks (The Real Florida) most of the time. I’m an iPhone cameraman these days — I’ll see if I can post one or two.

  27. 27
    Libraryguy says:

    That _looks_ like I imagine a chocolate factory should look. It’s the Platonic ideal of the concept. Thanks for sharing!

  28. 28
    opiejeanne says:

    What a beautiful building! Amazing detail. If we ever go back to Paris this is a place I’d like to visit. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    We heard a little bit about the Menier family when we visited this amazing place that they owned during WWI: Chateau Chenonceau but we didn’t know about the factory building, and didn’t realize it was so near Paris.

  29. 29

    @J R in WV: Writing does indeed seem to have seen widespread adoption to keep track of grain taxes.

    Cool pictures!

  30. 30
    stinger says:

    What a gorgeous building — proof that you can have both utility and beauty.

    The town of Hershey can be smelled before it comes into view — I wonder if that was true of Noisiel in its day. Googling, I see that Noisiel was basically a company town. Thanks, Ragbatz!

  31. 31
    Origuy says:

    Beautiful. That decorative brickwork is known as “diapering”, by the way. It comes from the Greek words for white and diagonal.

  32. 32
    Miss Bianca says:

    OMG. Beautiful photos of a beautiful building dedicated to the manufacture and general glorification of my favorite foodstuff. My life feels strangely complete now.

  33. 33
    Ragbatz says:

    Thanks for the comments and, yes, for the photography critique.

    Of interest in light of comments about bean counters by Amir et al: E.J. Menier, the giant of industry who commissioned Le Moulin, intended to and did make the beauty of the building part of his chocolate’s branding as a luxury item. Juicers might also appeciate that E.J. was a significantly enlightened capitalist, a follower of Voltaire, and a left wing member of the National Assembly. So, for example, the workers’ village at the core of this company town operated on progressive principles, and not as mechanism for fostering worker dependency.

    As for birds, Mary G, in June we saw — within just a few hundred feet of the Le Moulin — newly hatched swans, ducks, geese, moorhens, and coots.

    FWIW, what made the mill the center of my world last summer was Ms Ragbatz’s illustration project.

  34. 34
    Denali says:

    Wow, Ms. Ragbatz is a gifted watercolorist! I am just a wannabe, and I know how hard it is! I knew about the Menier chocolates, but had no idea about this beautiful building. Thanks for sharing!

  35. 35
    Mart says:

    Not close to the French chocolate factory; but during the great depression old man Staley kept his Decatur, IL employees employed in part by building an office tower in front of his corn starch factory. Pretty cool maize and Indian theme. Local paper ran old photos here – http://herald-review.com/galle.....691.html#8” rel=”nofollow

  36. 36
    Ragbatz says:

    @Mart: Thanks for calling our attention to the Staley building. Cool that a dedication brochure for the Staley said: “Art has won for itself a place in business.”

  37. 37
    Steeplejack says:


    Nice art from the Ms.

  38. 38
    raven says:

    @Mart: Nice, thanks!

  39. 39
    opiejeanne says:

    @Ragbatz: Beautiful work. Your wife is a gifted artist.

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