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This article focuses on some key projects of architectural preservation in France from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. These projects collectively demonstrate that as the restoration of individual monuments proceeded to the level of urban spaces, the processes of preservation and modernization were always intertwined; the historic monument was as much about dramatizing the processes of renovation and revitalization as it was about memorializing the past. They spoke to the ephemerality of modernity as eloquently as they represented the past. The history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France thus demonstrates the difficulties faced by even the most thoughtful planners as they attempted to reconcile the objectives of modernization and preservation while maintaining the city as a dynamic and exciting place.