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Visiting Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège, Belgium: its current and former name recalling the Universal Exhibition of 1905

Updated on February 5, 2013
Flag of Belgium
Flag of Belgium | Source
Official poster of the Universal Exhibition of Liège, 1905
Official poster of the Universal Exhibition of Liège, 1905 | Source
Emile Digneffe in about 1900, in: G. Deltour, Belgium Today, Berlin-Charlottenburg: Adolf Eckstein, c. 1908
Emile Digneffe in about 1900, in: G. Deltour, Belgium Today, Berlin-Charlottenburg: Adolf Eckstein, c. 1908 | Source
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège | Source
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège | Source
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège
Avenue Emile Digneffe, Liège | Source
Map location of the Liège area
Map location of the Liège area | Source

Recalling a prosperous and gracious age expressed architecturally in Art Nouveau

So who was Emile Digneffe? and what was the road formerly called? These are reasonable questions in the light of the name of this article; their answers relate something of the history of the city of Liège, Belgium, in the early 20th century.

The City of Liège hosted the Universal Exhibition of 1905 (French: Exposition Universelle de 1905 ). Belgium became highly industrialized in the 19th century and the existence of a wide range of products of its industry was a principal reason for the country hosting a number of these Universal Exhibitions (1). A mover behind the 1905 Exhibtion in the city was Emile Digneffe (2), who later became Mayor of Liège (French: Bourgmestre de Liège )(3).

The road now known as Avenue Emile Digneffe was previously called Allée de l'Exposition
since it was the principal thoroughfare along which the Exhibition was held.

Thus dating from the end of the Belle Epoque , a substantial proportion of the existing housing stock on Avenue Emile Digneffe is in various, gracious styles, including Art Nouveau . A number of houses on Avenue Emile Digneffe were the responsibility of various, prominent architects, all of whom were noted for their work in Art Nouveau style. These architects include Maurice Dévignée (1882-1969) who designed No.s 22, 28 and 29, Jules Micha (1878-1950) who designed No. 36 and Joseph Nusbaum (1876-1950) who designed No.s 33, 45 and 47. These properties have come to be regarded as somewhat prestigious addresses in the city.

Upon the death of Emile Digneffe in 1937, the road was re-named Avenue Emile Digneffe .

The Avenue is situated between the Fragnée Bridge (French: Pont de Fragnée ) and the square known as Place du Général Leman (4), in Liège, in Belgium's Walloon region (French: Région wallonne ).

February 6, 2013


(1) The ostensible reason for the Universal Exhibition of Liège in 1905, was, however, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Belgium's independence in 1830.

(2) In addition to his municipal rôle and responsibilities with the Universal Exhibition of 1905, Emile Digneffe (1858-1937) also served variously as a Parliamentary deputy and, in the 1930s, as President of the Belgian Senate; he also had interests in law and banking and was a prominent member of the Belgian Liberal Party. (Personal note: many years later, but many years ago now, also, I myself lived in accommodation which also happened to be used as the headquarters of the Young Liberals, in Liège, which, as it happened, was situated just a short walk from Avenue Emile Digneffe .) Emile Digneffe was also a promoter of the International Exhibition of Liège, 1930 (French: Exposition Internationale de Liège de 1930 ).

(3) While the word 'maire' is used in France to denote a mayor, in Belgium the term used is 'bourgmestre'. In French, especially in its usage in Belgium, with the country's historical background of having enjoyed relative wealth in Medieval Burgundian times, the word 'bourgmestre' is also redolent of someone who presides over prosperity. Indeed, a humorous phrase is even occasionally used which is reminiscent of a portly, Belgian burgomaster: 'ventre de bourgmestre' — i.e., 'burgomaster's belly'. (This particular feature, however, was apparently not shared by the distinguished Monsieur Digneffe.)

(4) Some of the properties in the nearby Place du Général Leman also recall Art Nouveau stylistic elements, for some of which Architects Micha and Nusbaum (see above) were also responsible.

Also worth seeing

In Liège itself, other visitor attractions include: the Fine Arts Palace (French: Palais des Beaux-Arts ), in the Parc de la Boverie on Outremeuse Island; the Zénobe Gramme Monument close to the Fragnée Bridge; the equestrian statue of Charlemagne, the Cointe Basilica and other, church architecture, some of it dating from the Middle Ages; the Bueren Mountain; the Perron; and many others.


How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels Airport, where car hire is available (distance from Brussels Airport to Liège : 94 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company SNCB maintains a service from Brussels to Liège . Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. You are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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