Up until the start of the 19th century Schaerbeek was agrarian: fields, meadows, brooks and windmills. It was famous for its ‘cerises du nord' (small cherries with a sour taste and large pips) which are used to brew Kriek Lambiek beer. The Chaussée de Haecht, the eldest connecting road, had been metalled in 1459. Throughout the ages it formed an important axis for the exchanges between city and countryside; the Church of St-Servais, which was situated slightly lower, also played an important part.
End of XIXe
In the middle of the 19th century the neighbourhood of Maison Autrique underwent a dramatic change and started to urbanize. It's rural character disappeared steadily: during the construction of the house the town hall was inaugurated, a horse-drawn tramway was constructed, and many other houses were built. Around this time several industries appear in Schaerbeek: distilleries, playing cards factories, glue factories, varnish factories, iron- and copper-foundries, a rubber factory, not to mention the production of chocolate. The atmosphere in the neighbourhood was without a doubt a bit chaotic during the first years the Autrique family lived in the house. It was during those years that the Avenue Louis Bertrand and numerous adjacent streets were constructed, which were of course surrounded by houses. The Avenue Louis Bertrand has retained a sort of unity, dominated by eclectic architecture; it's where several contemporaries of Horta also got the chance to express their architectural abilities. While taking a walk through the neighbourhood you can admire façades designed by Jacobs, Strauven or Hemelsoet.
It's an interesting notion that the development of the neighbourhood raised controversies that still have a familiar ring to them. The construction of the avenue for example, brought about the demolition of the church. (The fountain on the central square is the exact point where the centre of the church used to be located) In 1905 the tower, which was a magnificent example of the Roman style, succumbed to the blows of the construction promoters, who didn't care about the protestations of the inhabitants, artists and the press.