Hidden Belgium: The Belgian who built the Paris metro

Hidden Belgium: The Belgian who built the Paris metro

Nothing tells you the history of the flamboyant renaissance mansion on Place de la Liberté in Brussels. It was acquired in 1881, just two years after it was built, by the Belgian industrialist Edouard Empain.

Empain made a fortune in the late 19th century building railways, tramlines and electricity power stations. He also established his own investment bank to finance his operations. The bank occupied the ground floor of his mansion while Empain lived in a luxurious residence above.

In 1897, a company owned by Empain, the Compagnie Générale de Traction, won the contract to build the Paris metro system. Renamed the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer Métropolitain, it opened its first line on 19 July 1900.

The ground floor where Empain ran his banking operations is now occupied by a tattoo parlour.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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