Imagine Belgium: Once upon a time in Maison de la Balance! 1/2
Can you believe that Imagine Belgium settled down right in the magnificent Grand-Place in Brussels? We couldn’t believe it either, but here we are! We felt so honored to move in the “Maison de la Balance” (Rue de la Colline 24) that we wanted to share with you everything we know about this historical place. Be ready to take a step back in time!
Once upon a time in the Grand-Place…
Back in 1567, the Grand-Place and its houses looked very different from the way they do now. Rue de la Colline is quite dense and many houses are still made of wood… then a huge fire destroyed almost all of the houses in this street. Ouch! It’s fine, houses are rebuilt with stone. But later the French army bombarded the Grand-Place in 1695 and the Maison de la Balance was destroyed, again. Bloody Frenchies! But the basements survived and the house was rebuilt upon them. That is why the house still holds original beams prior to the fires of 1695. Impressive right?
La Maison de la Balance, Queen of the Grand-Place
La Maison de la Balance was rebuilt in 1704 and it was so remarkable that the house won the competition organized for the reconstruction of the Grand-Place. Yes, we are really proud that our house won the beauty contest of the Grand-Place at the time! In fact the facade as you see it today is quite similar as it was in 1704. You can still enjoy the beauty of Maison de la Balance, isn’t that great?
A building (almost) like in the old times
We told you that the facade didn’t change much since 1704. Actually the ground level did change a bit at the end of the 19th century. At the time, the mayor of Brussels wanted to restore the Grand-Place so he found an agreement with the landlord to restore the Maison de la Balance. But the house was known for hosting an estaminet (a bar) named « Aux Deux Nègres ». So the facade was restored and they added statues of two Africans at the main door of the business. Fortunately, the name « Maison des Deux Nègres » is no longer in use, but the statues remained part of the building as we see it today.
One house, many stories
From 1704 up to now, the Maison de la Balance had many stories and met many landlords. In the end, what makes the entity of the house are the figures of two cherubs carrying a scale, illustrating the symbol of the Maison de la Balance.
It is hard to know the exact story of the house but we know that it had multiple landlords and occupants. Did you know that Adam Van Heren, the landlord in 1704 left us his autograph? You can still spot his initials AMVH inscribed on the wall in the inner courtyard of our house!
The house hosted successively owners, shops, estaminets and restaurants through centuries. Lately, there was the bar Good Kompany in 2014-2015 opened by former Red Devils and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany (we actually kept the sign of the bar as a « clin d’oeil » to the former bar). Yes, our house certainly welcomed famous people! The latest resident before Imagine Belgium was the shop Ladurée (you know, those delicious macarons from Paris), but it closed in early 2016.
And here we are now opening this wonderful house to the public again. Be ready and come visit Imagine Belgium at Maison de la Balance right in the Grand-Place in September!
That’s all folks! Don’t miss the next article on our first steps in the house coming soon! We found out all these information in the archives of the house and some recent information on the Wikipedia page of the Maison de la Balance.
If you want to know more about the story of the Grand-Place in Brussels, have a look at our article 10 things you probably forgot about the Grand-Place.
If you are curious to know more about Imagine Belgium and Flybox, check our article Building a startup in the tourism sector in 2020.