Le Familistère de Guise

10 million bricks, 30,000 square metres housing area and courtyard, 495 workers' flats for 1,748 people, running water on all floors, a nursery with 50 cots, a theatre for an audience of 1,000, a school, a laundry, a public swimming pool and, last but not least, a comprehensive social security system: the project that Jean-Baptiste Godin, who ran a successful business producing cast-iron stoves and enamelled bathtubs, sets up in the small northern French town of Guise between 1858 and 1883 seems to contemporaries a kind of social utopia. In fact, when building his "social palace", which is still partly inhabited today, he takes inspiration in the ideas of the early socialist thinker Charles Fourier and establishes a cooperative, the Société du Familistère, in 1880, thus turning the workers into owners of his stove factory. The museum, which opened in the main wing of the residential complex in 2006 and has been continuously expanded, tells the fascinating story of this social programme with over 6,000 exhibits. Visitors can explore the central residential block with its large inner courtyard, Godin's flat, the public bath and laundry as well as the historic garden.

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Le Familistère de Guise
178-179 Familistère pavillon central
02120 Guise
+33 (0) 323 - 613536


"Since we couldn't build palaces out of the huts of the workers' families, we wanted to turn the worker's home into a palace: The Familistère is in fact nothing else, it is the palace of labour, it is the SOCIAL PALACE of the future." When Godin writes these words in 1874, he already largely fulfilled his social promise. Poverty among industrial workers is on his mind ever since he experienced it as a travelling journeyman in the 1830s. In 1842, he becomes acquainted with the works of the Utopian Charles Fourier and since then is attached to the idea of redistributing accumulated wealth to the workers. He calls this the "equivalents of wealth", meaning that the entirety of amenities and hygiene standards acquired by the middle classes through money should now also be available to the members of the cooperative he founded. This reveals the influence of the English cooperative movement initiated by Robert Owen and the "Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers", which is particularly evident in the significance Godin attaches to education: schooling in the Familistère is mixed-sex and compulsory until the age of 14 (with child labour then being allowed from the age of 10) and he also uses the theatre for lectures on "the benefits of the cooperative". The museum brings this collective spirit back to life: in the flats, which are modern by the standards of the time; in the large atrium, once used for everyday gatherings and festive banquets; but also in the cast-iron stoves and other products manufactured in the factory, securing shared prosperity. After Godin's death in 1888, the company maintained its leading position in the industry until the 1960s thanks to the renowned "Godin" brand, before being acquired by the Le Creuset Group. Since 2000, the residential complex is being renovated to accommodate a hotel and social housing in addition to the museum.

Recommended duration of visit:2 Hours
Duration of a guided tour:45 Minutes
Access for persons with disabilities:For details see website
Infrastructure for children:

December to January
Tuesday - Sunday 10am-5pm

February, November
daily 10am-5pm

March to May, September, October
daily 10am-6pm

June to August
daily 10am-7pm

  • Guided tours optional
  • Tours in other languages
  • Guided tours for children