The town is now in the eastern suburbs of Paris, only 21 ks from the centre. Yet the site became of interest to art historians only after new industrial architecture was developed on the River Marne. In 1872 Emile-Justin Menier, one of the long line of Menier Chocolate Co. directors, initiated a major building programme that created some of the most modern production facilities in the world.
Saulnier's main building, 1872-4
The iron and brick chocolate factory at Noisiel really was one of the iconic buildings of the Industrial Revolution. Architect Jules Saulnier was given the task of constructing new buildings and improving the existing premises, to modernise and improve the chocolate-making process. In fact many historians cite the building as the first true skeleton structure. The old watermill building had a visible iron structure and distinctive industrial-looking ceramic tiles patterns, so we can safely say that both the design and the materials were impressive. The three dates carved above the entrance correspond to a] the year the old mill was built - 1157, b] the year the Menier factory was moved to Noisiel - 1825 and c] the year the Saulnier Mill replaced the old one - 1874.
Cathedral building: 1906-8
Because of the Menier company's rapid growth, the shortage of workers available from the small village forced the company to seek skilled workers from elsewhere. It must have worked, for at its peak, the company employed a workforce of over 2000 workers (see Architectural and Engineering Feats and Facts).
However the lack of housing in Noisiel was problematic, so Menier completed construction of 312 residences on 30 hectares of land near the factory in 1874. They eventually built a school for their employees' children and three decades later, a senior citizens' home for their retired workers. If it was the industrial revolution, it had a humane, benevolent face. In the 1870s, the Meniers also built the Noisiel town hall.
At the 1878 World's Fair in Paris, the company was awarded seven gold medals. They also won the Grand Prize for the excellence of their products and citations for their modern production methods and for looking after the well-being of their employees.
Cathedral: open, airy interior
Following the death of Emile Justin Menier, in 1881, his sons Henri and Gaston assumed control of the business. Older son Henri became head of the company, but he left much of the company's management to Gaston who began the next era of Menier development and growth. The Menier plant added modern refrigeration systems. In 1881 a railroad line was built to the Noisiel factory, thus reducing costs for incoming and outgoing freight, and allowing for wider and faster distribution.
A new Menier factory building was positioned between the channel and the Marne River bank. This new, reinforced concrete structure was built in the 1906-1908 era and was known as la Cathédrale. The intention was to create a public showcase for the chocolate manufacturing process in the double height internal spaces. The project engineer was Armand Considere.
The company's water supply