Visiting the Delacre Pharmacy, Brussels, Belgium: Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance opulence by Paul Saintenoy
Royal associations through patronage and geographical proximity
This striking building in Brussels, Belgium is situated at 64-66, rue de la Montagne de la Cour / Hofberg . (1) The building is the former Delacre Pharmacy (French: Pharmacie Delacre; Dutch: Apotheek Delacre).
It dates from 1895 and is the work of architect Paul Saintenoy (1862-1952)(2). The structure evidences both Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance styling. Particularly conspicuous are a corner turret with a pointed, conical roof, and a stepped gable of a variety popular in the Low Countries.
Included in the original building were chemical laboratories for the pharmaceutical trade.
So with such an opulent building for his pharmacy, the proprietor Charles Delacre evidently prospered in his apothecary's trade?
Well, yes and no. Charles Delacre was a French-born businessman who qualified as a pharmacist, but found that from a business perspective there was a lot of money to be made from chocolates, and from 1891, cookies. A boost to his business occurred when he was awarded the coveted status of Supplier to the Royal Court.
So someone at the Palace had a sweet tooth? (3) Or maybe his chocolates were really just that good! Today, the Delacre empire is a huge concern, especially in northern European countries.
Belgium is well known for its chocolates and cookies, in any case, and this building is a significant historical site associated with the growth of this Belgian industry.
Interestingly, in the 19th century, chocolate was thought of as a nutritious (and therefore healthy) food and so a pharmacist could without irony promote what today would be regarded as a less than inspired choice for healthy eating.
In any case, the business which Charles Delacre generated produced also a striking building which is suggestive of a prosperous Renaissance merchant. The French-born pharmacist thus made an architectural mark on Brussels (with Architect Saintenoy) as well as a wider gastronomic impact.
I have also supplied a representation of a poster by Henri Privat-Livemont (1861-1936), promoting Delacre cookies and chocolates. This poster dates from 1896 and evidences the popular Art Nouveau style of the day.
Also given is a photo of a Delacre cookie box produced in 2009 for the 50th wedding anniversary of King Albert II of the Belgians and Queen Paola.
January 27, 2015
(1) As the name implies, the building is hardly a stone's throw from the Royal Square (French: place Royale; Dutch: Koningsplein).
(2) Other works by Architect Paul Saintenoy include Château Le Fy, Esneux, and various private houses in Brussels. He was particularly known for his work in Art Nouveau style. In the picture, below, another building by Paul Saintenoy, known as Old England, can also be seen to the right of the photo.
(3) In any case, the Delacre Pharmacy lies only a few minutes' walk from the Royal Palace.
Also worth seeing
The visitor attractions of Brussels are numerous, but a few of these include the Royal Palace and BELvue museum, the Grand' Place, St Michael's Cathedral, the Atomium and the Erasmus House museum, Anderlecht, the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries; and many others.
How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. However, the Metro is a very convenient way of getting around Brussels. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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