Familistère de Guise (Aisne).
Jean-Baptiste André Godin was a French industrialist, writer and political theorist, and social innovator. A manufacturer of cast-iron stoves and influenced by Charles Fourier, he developed and built an industrial and residential community within Guise called the Familistère (Social Palace). He ultimately converted it to cooperative ownership and management by workers.
From 1856-1859 Godin started the Familistère (Social Palace) in Guise. His intention was to improve housing for workers, but also “production, trade, supply, education, and recreation”, all the facets of life of a modern worker. He developed the Familistère as a self-contained community within the town, where he could encourage “social sympathy”. The full site with the foundry was about eighteen acres, on either side of the River Oise. In addition to a large factory for cast-iron manufacture, three large buildings, each four stories high, were constructed to house all the workers and their families, with each family having apartments of two or three rooms. The main building consisted of three rectangular blocks joined at the corners. Each of these blocks had a large central court covered with a glass roof under which children could play in all weather. Galleries around the couryard provided access to the apartments on each floor. There were also garden allotments for the workers. By 1872, when a correspondent from the American Harper’s Magazine visited the complex, 900 workers (including women) and their families were housed there, for a total population of about 1200.
The project contained no churches, but there were numerous churches elsewhere in Guise. At the back of the main block was a nursery, a pouponnat (or infant school) for toddlers and children up to age four, the bambinat for children 4-6. Opposite the main block was a building containing a theater for concerts and dramatic entertainments, and a primary school for children over six.
A separate block, known as the “economat”, contained various shops, refreshment and recreation rooms of various kinds, and grocery and stores for the purchase of every necessity. Produce and goods were purchased at wholesale prices and sold with little mark-up, with workers manning the shops. Goods were stored beneath the buildings, where there were storage areas for the families.
In 1880 Godin created the association documents for the Familistere, converting it as he had long intended into a co-operative society, eventually to be owned by the workers. It was called l’Association coopérative du Capital et du Travail.