Porte de Hal, Brussels, Belgium, ca early 1900s
The black and white photograph of Porte de Hal in Brussels, Belgium on this early 1900s postcard from France looks to date from the 1890s. Notice the horse drawn carriages and trolley car in the foreground.
Porte de Hal (French) also called Halle Gate or Hallepoort (Dutch) was first built in 1381 and served as a gate in the second set of defensive walls that enclosed the city of Brussels. It originally included a portcullis and drawbridge over a moat. It faces the city of Halle from whence it took its name and was one of six such gates. This gate is the only one still standing.
The building has been used as a prison, customs house, grain storage, a Lutheran church and currently a museum. In 1847 the name was changed to the Royal Museums for Art and History but by 1889 it was too small to house the entire museum collection and today it mostly displays armor and weapons. The remainder of the museum collection was relocated to the Cinquantenaire Museum.
The circular tower, interior spiral staircase, turrets and a conical roof together with other Neo Gothic embellishments were added in 1868-1870 as part of a restoration project headed by the architect Henri Beyaert. These enhancements changed a austere medieval tower into a more romantic structure.
Henri or Hendrik Beyaert (1823-1894) began life humbly and had to earn his living from a very young age. He could not afford higher education and worked first as a bank employee. He had always been interested in architecture so when he left the bank he took a position as an apprentice stonemason. In 1842 he moved to Brussels and kept a small bookshop where he finally had enough means and a school nearby to be able to take architecture classes. While there he met Felix Janlet, an architect, who took an interest in him and offered him a job in his office. Beyaert's job and a small scholarship allowed him to finish his studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1846. Today he is considered to be one of the most important 19th century Belgian architects.
In 1976 it was determined that Porte de Hal was in a dangerous state of disrepair and it was closed. Even though renovation began and the Gate reopened to the public in 1991 lack of funds stalled the renovation therefore it wasn’t until 2007 that the project could resume. By 2008 it finally opened with the St. Gilles drawbridge as the main entrance. The remaining exhibits include history about the building and its part in the defense of Brussels; Archduke Albert of Austria’s collection of parade armor, and information concerning trade guilds in the city. There is a walkway around the battlements that provides a panorama view of the city.
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