Commandeered to Victor Horta by the Parti ouvrier belge (workers Belgian party), the construction of the Maison du Peuple of Brussels was done between 1896 and 1898. But its inauguration took place on Easter weekend 1989. A flamboyant red parade started at the South Station towards rue Joseph Stevens (Sablon). At the head of the parade was no other than Jean Jaurès, among others, who had come from France specifically to honor this building.
The Party now had a bast meeting place in the center of the city. A place made of glass and steel. The groundfloor was made of shops and cafes; the first floor had offices and the second and third floors had various rooms for various purposes. The big event hall was on the fourth floor. As a true ship of socialist ideology, this room could welcome up to 300 people.
Every big city in Belgium had its "Maison du Peuple", but the one in Brussels was the reference. For its architecture of course, that would once and for all place Victor Horta as a pioneer architect, but also for its atmosphere.
Judged unfashioned and threatened by real estate speculation, the Brussels Maison du Peuple was condemned on 30 January 1964. The government had just signed its execution. And by this act was made the ultimate crime of brusselisation.
It was demolished in 1965 to be replaced with a 26-floor office building that took the name of its entrepreneur: Blaton. The same that made most the works of Horta. A way of reminding everyone that Belgium isn't only the country of compromise, but also of surrealism...
Some of the original pieces of the building can still be found in the Horta metro station in Saint-Gilles.
The Blaton tower is still standing. But for the sake of remembrance, BrusselsLife.be placed in one single picture the old Maison du Peuple and today's appearancce of the neighborhood. Other pictures like this one can be found in our compilation of Brussels: Before and after.
In Brussels, other Maison du Peule are still standing. The one on Parvis de Saint-Gilles is probably the most famous. After being a rally point, it served various other purposes before ending up as the popular bar of the same name: Maison du Peuple. So next time you go there, raise your glass to Lenine who actually gave a speech there in 1914...