The clock tower, festooned with wisteria, wasn’t built as ornamental landscape feature. It is the belfry of the former horse market and abattoirs of Vaugirard, built in 1897. The bell signaled the closing of the horse market for the last time in 1977.
The tower is now the focal point of Parc Georges Brassens, in the 15th arrondissement of Paris. For most of the nineteenth century this was market garden land, supplying fruit and vegetables to the city which had swallowed up the agricultural village of Vaugirard. In earlier centuries the village had been locally famous for its fine turnips and rather acid wine. Onions must have featured among the crops of the nineteenth century market gardeners; Oignon Blanc de Vaugirard is a hardy variety of white onion, still popular for early crops in northern France.
After the demolition of the abattoirs, the land was laid out as a public park including a small vineyard, the Clos des Morillons, on the south facing slopes of the hill. Seven hundred Pinot Noir vines make this the second largest vineyard in Paris. The start of the annual grape harvest is formally declared by the mayor of the arrondissement in mid September; the vines yield around 200 kg of grapes, producing 320 bottles of wine a year. Next to the vineyard the Société d’Apiculture maintains an educational apiary. An annual fair in October celebrates the honey and the wine produced from the park, as well as la nature in general.
Part of the old horse market hall survives at the entrance to the park, where it shelters a second hand book market each weekend. The role of the site in the horse meat trade is commemorated obliquely in a bronze statue of a meat porter. The only horses now seen in the park are the cosseted ponies that give rides to small children.