May 11, 2011

La Grande Place, the Old Houses, Brussels, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Grande Place in Brussels is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). This square is the traditional center of Brussels, the location of city hall and the city’s market place. Its present appearance has not changed since around 1695, when the French army under Louis XIV destroyed its older structures, which had been built in the Middle Ages. The houses shown here reflect a Gothic–Baroque style of architecture, popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. Baedeker’s Belgium and Holland including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (1905) described the square as “one of the finest medieval squares in existence, presenting a marked contrast to the otherwise modern character of the city, which occupies an important place in the annals of Belgium.”

St. Hubert's Gallery, Brussels, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Royal Galleries St. Hubert in Brussels is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Located at the city center, this shopping arcade was designed by the architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar (1811–80) and opened in 1847 under the reign of King Leopold I to celebrate Belgium's independence in 1830. The arcade consists of two main sections, the King's Gallery and the Queen's Gallery, which are separated by a colonnade. With its domed-glass and cast-iron roof, the building reflects a blend of Italian Renaissance architecture and newer, 19th-century construction technology. Baedeker’s Belgium and Holland including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (1905) characterized the gallery as “a spacious and attractive arcade with tempting shops (234 yds. in length, 26 ft. in width, and 59 ft. in height).” Shopping centers such as this became increasingly popular with the onset of the Industrial Revolution, and this arcade represents an early example of the shopping mall in Europe.

St. Bavon Abbey, the Cloister, Ghent, Belgium

This photochrome print of the cloister in the St. Bavon Abbey is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). According to Baedeker’s Belgium and Holland including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (1905), “the abbey, traditionally said to have been founded about 630 by St. Amandus and restored in 651 by St. Bavon (d. 654), was one of those bestowed upon Eginhard, the biographer of Charlemagne, and after its destruction by the Northmen (851) was restored with great splendour (10th cent.). . . . The chief remnant of the old abbey is the Cloister, dating originally from 1177, but rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1495. Its [south] walk is adjoined by the [north] wall of the Abbey Church, consecrated in 1067 and destroyed by the Calvinists in 1581.”

Ghent Gate, Bruges, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Ghent gate in Bruges is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). The gate, otherwise known as Gentpoort or Porte de Gand, is one of only four remaining medieval gates in Bruges. It was designed by the Flemish architect Jan van Oudenaarde (died 1412) and initially served as a fortification and as a point of exchange for merchants. Bruges was one of Europe’s major commercial centers from the 12th to the 15th centuries. The city declined from the 16th century onward, when the channel connecting it with the sea began to silt over. The medieval center of the town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Entrance to Port, Ostend, Belgium

This photochrome print of the port in Ostend is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Located in West Flanders on the coast of the North Sea, Ostend is one of Belgium’s main port cities. Baedeker’s Belgium and Holland including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (1905) called Ostend “the second seaport and the most fashionable sea-bathing resort of Belgium.” Visible to the right is the Western Pier, which was built in 1837 to accommodate the city’s increasing trade. The economy of Ostend has always been based on the sea, fishing and shipping in particular. The city was connected by rail to Brussels in 1838, and in 1846 the ferry from Ostend to Dover, England, was initiated. Ostend was also a favorite leisure site for King Leopold I, who ruled Belgium from 1831 to 1865.

Brabo Monument, Antwerp, Belgium

This photochrome print of the Brabo Monument in Antwerp is part of “Views of Architecture and Other Sites in Belgium” from the catalog of the Detroit Publishing Company (1905). Dedicated to the legendary hero Salvius Brabo, the monument was designed by Jef Lambeaux (1852–1908) and is located on the Grand Place in Antwerp. As described in Baedeker’s Belgium and Holland including the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (1905), Brabo was “a mythical hero who defeated and cut off the hand of the giant Antigonus. The giant used to exact a heavy toll from vessels entering the Scheldt, and ruthlessly cut off and threw into the river a hand of every shipmaster who refused to pay." This legend is said to explain Antwerp's unusual name, which is a compound of the Flemish words for “hand” (ant) and “to throw” (werpen).