Wednesday 31 October 2018

Aspects of the Brussels of the Brontës: The Panoramic View of the City, the Pensionnat and the petites maisons

The problem of the protected panoramic view of the city from Place Belliard, mentioned in a previous article,  surfaced again in 1856, in connection with the renovation plan for the Pensionnat Heger. A key part of it was the incorporation into the building of Rue d’Isabelle 34, 36 and 38, three houses the Hegers had already bought in 1844. Heger, in a letter to the mayor seeking permission, described them as “trois petites maisons.” The first renovation plan was rejected though on the ground that the proposed building got too high, for that panoramic view. The Hegers had to agree to a height of two and a half meters less than the 11,70 m they had wished. That’s one storey.

Rue d’Isabelle 34, 36 and 38 were small houses, pretty much identical to the well-known nrs 24, 26 and 28. They were all 17th century buildings. What’s more, in 1842 and 1843 nrs 16, 18, 20, 22, 30 and 40 were most probably also such houses. The Pensionnat was nr 32. It was also bought by the Hegers in 1844.

Rue d’Isabelle 24, 26, 28
The 1842 cadastral plan clearly shows this. One can also see that the Pensionnat had a fairly small street front part. A good deal of the building was hidden behind Rue d’Isabelle 34 to 40. In the 1840s, thus, this side of the street was rather different from what it looked like in photographs of later times, such as this one: 

The 1842 plan
This version of the 1842 cadastral plan shows these three buildings, nrs 34, 36 and 38 (indicated by blue dots; the Pensionnat is given in red, with a part of it, a one storey annex. in orange). They were situated at the right side of the Pensionnat’s street façade. On the left side there was a row of 8 of these little houses. Based on this an adapted picture was made, which comes much closer to what the Rue d’Isabelle really looked like in 1842-3.

A photomontage of Rue d’Isabelle in 1842

Eric Ruijssenaars

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