The elegant Antwerp Grand Hotel Weber is a typical realization from an era known as the Belle Epoque. The construction of the ornate hotel within walking distance of the Central Station dates back to 1900. In that year, at the corner of the Keyserlei and the current France Route – Kunstlei- A wooden dance pavilion and a restaurant belonging to the nearby hotel Mille Colonnes were broken down .

The land was purchased by Nicolas Weber. This German immigrant (1861 in Effelder) moved to Antwerp in 1887. According to some sources, he climbed from the server to the Kölner Hof (Hotel de Cologne) on the Keyserlei. Other sources think again that he has not climbed, but was just a mean comedian, or married a very wealthy woman. Given its later expensive investment, this is definitely a further hypothesis.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp.

The man apparently made golden business with the Hotel on the Keyserlei. After a number of years, he had saved so much that he could start looking for new expansion opportunities. When there was a lot of land on the Kunstlei, he saw a great opportunity to build a prestigious hotel. Between 1900 and 1901 he left a large L-shaped hotel with a beautiful dome. The design was made by architect H. Blomme. 

With its beautiful dome on the corner, it seemed a little bit on a mini version of the Negresco from Nice. Retouch co-worker Hugo Cuypers made a beautiful drawing shortly before his death, based on the blueprints he consulted from the “folded” short and long facades, linked by the beautiful tower.

The tower also reminded of the Hotel Central in Berlin Tiergarten. He was decorated with four large women’s images in bronze, representing the continents of Europe, Asia, America and Africa. The tone was taken immediately: the palace greeted not only a wealthy but also an international cosmopolitan clientele.

Weber took charge of his first case, the “Cologne” to a German woman, who himself took charge of the Grand Hotel Weber.

The entire station area was in full expansion during this period. In 1895 the building of the glass and metal cover was started at the Central Station. Four years later, the construction of the actual “railway cathedral” itself began, the stone section in which the offices and boutiques would be housed. The impressive building with its huge dome was designed by architect Louis Delacenserie. (Strange enough, the man’s name would never really go to collective memory). It lasted until 1905 before the station was completely ready.

Closer to the Grand Hotel Weber also saw major renovations. In the place where the Opera has been established, there has been an indoor market since 1893. Its official name was the “Marché Couvert de l’Avenue des Arts”, a name that was only in French on the facade of these Antwerp halls. (Some postcards also use the term “Halles centrales”) In the Belle Epoque, such previously functional buildings were designed with the necessary imagination (think of the black style of the cattle market of Anderlecht). Also for the Antwerp halls the designers had given their imagination a lot of space. The large covered glass hall was flanked by two book supports by a couple of frivolous towers. Their intricate design reminded them of the Blankenberge Kursaal.

However, this striking trade infrastructure was not long-lived: in 1904, almost 10 years after commissioning, it was completely made equal with the ground. The market activities were then moved to the Van Wesenbeekstraat. In the place where the unfortunate sheltered market had stood, the statutory opera house, or Flemish Lyric Theater (“Théatre Lyrique Flamand”), was still the same as it was called. Its inauguration dates from 1907, but the building was completely completed only 1909.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp. Corner of Restaurant Louis XV.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp. Reading room.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp. Breakfast room.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp. Vestibule.

1906 Hotel Grand Antwerp. Café.

The name Weber was no longer used to indicate the hotel from 1919. Everything that was German was not very popular in those days. From the 1920s it was simply known as the “Grand Hôtel”. (What further down the Keyserlei Hotel Pschorr changed into Hotel Lutèce).

The beautiful corner building was provided in the 1940s with a prefabrication, an extension technique that would later be used in the Keyserlei. All in all, this did detract from the elegant design of this building.

From 13 October 1944 the Germans bombed Antwerp with hundreds of V-1s and V-2s. The scary but imprecise weapons often fell miles from their actual target, the port facilities. The missiles then made hundreds more victims.

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