Visiting Ostend Station, Ostend, Belgium: Belle Epoque monumentality by P J Oppen and L P J Seulen, dating from 1913
Pre-World War One grace and solidity
This imposing structure in Ostend (Dutch: Oostende ), Belgium can truly be described as monumental, a reminded of the formerly high proportion of rail travellers in the days before automobiles and airliners.
Ostend is situated in the Belgian province of West Flanders (Dutch: Oost-Vlaanderen ), in the Flemish region (Dutch: Vlaams gewest ). Completed in 1913, just before the outbreak of World War One, when it sustained damage, work began on the building in 1907, under the responsibility of architects P J Otten and L P J Seulen (1).
Among the influences discernible in the architecture of the building are 17th century Classicism (Louis XIV style), especially in the building's main frontage. Some Art nouveau patterns are also visible. A major feature is mansard roofing, very popular in 19th century Belgium as well as France.
Building materials for the structure included Scottish granite and locally mined Zinnik (2) stone. Carved into the stonework of the building are instances of the monogram 'A', referring to King Albert I of the Belgians, who reigned from 1909 until 1934, thus being the monarch at the time of the building's inception.
Until well into the second half of the 20th century, the building incorporated a hotel.
This railroad station's passenger numbers were formerly swelled by travellers on the Ostend-Dover ferry connection, which served for a century and a half from 1846. This service has now been discontinued. There was, in fact, a railroad station in Ostend since 1838; indeed, for a period, two stations operated in the town until World War Two.
This fine building thus exudes both a grace and a solidity belonging to the Belle Époque period, which, even as the structure was completed, was rapidly drawing to a close.
The railroad station at Ostend is situated at Natiënkaai, 1 .
(1) Architect Seulen was known for designing railroad stations in Belgium; other work for which he was responsible included the station at Schaerbeek / Schaarbeek.
(2) Zinnik stone is sometimes referred to by its French name: 'Soignies'.
Also worth seeing
In Ostend itself, the Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk is an imposing neo-Gothic building, which contains a memorial mausoleum for a former Queen consort of Belgium.
Bruges (distance: 29 kilometres) is a fine city with striking, Medieval, ecclesiastical architecture, canals and civic buildings.
How to get there: Brussels National Airport (Brussel -Nationaal -Luchthaven) , Belgium, where car hire is available, is the nearest large international airport to Ostend (distance: 124 kilometres). Brussels Airlines flies from New York (JFK) to Brussels National. The Belgian NMBS / SNCB railroad company maintains services between Brussels and Ostend. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please 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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