Universal and International Exhibition of Liege 1905

75th anniversary of national independence

April 25, 1905 - November 6, 1905


The project for a world exhibition was born out of an idea launched by the Cercle Libéral du Commerce liégeois in 1897, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Belgium's independence.

Five sites (the Citadel Park, the Droixhe and Vennes plains, the Cointe and Belleflamme plateaus) were examined both from the point of view of the infrastructures to be built for the 1905 Exhibition and the future urbanisation.

The site that was finally chosen consisted of alluvial land that was often flooded, covered with wicker and separated from the Liège district of Fétinne by the "Fourchu Fossé", a wide meander of the Ourthe, and from the town of Angleur by another branch that had already been canalised.

The rectification of the river downstream through Outremeuse is complete, the diversion has protected the Boverie lands from flooding, but the protection of the upstream lands has been neglected. The project to move the bed of the Ardennes river would create a vast 21-hectare exhibition area almost entirely on the territory of Liège. After the festivities, the city would find a development zone there. The study of the future urbanisation is the work of the municipal engineer of works Albert Mahiels.

The project for the 1905 Exhibition included the construction of a double bridge over the Meuse and Ourthe rivers. The beautiful Fragnée bridge thus opened up the selected site, by linking it to the boulevards created by the town planner Hubert Blonden, and provided the city with an access route free of the old buildings.

In addition, the recommended location for the fairground allowed for a low-cost connection to the S.A. du Chemin de fer du Nord et de la Belgique (Paris line). The one-kilometre extension of the railway line to Les Vennes made it possible to transport the materials needed for the infrastructure and construction of the fairgrounds: 48,000 wagons of goods were brought in between 1901 and 1905.

The celebration of the 75th anniversary of Belgium's independence should not overshadow the efforts made by the people of Liège to demonstrate their inventive and industrious capacities. The "Daughter of the Meuse" can thus prove to the world that, although it is not the country's capital, it is nonetheless a leader in the industrial field.

Despite the tense international situation, the majority of the 38 participating countries did not hesitate to respond positively to the organisers' appeal: some officially, others as private exhibitors. At the behest of the King, Belgian diplomats in Beijing, Washington, Tokyo, St. Petersburg, London and Vienna worked effectively to promote the Liège project. Nothing, neither the context of the crisis, which was not very reassuring, nor the economic and colonial antagonisms, should spoil the Fête du Progrès.

Diplomacy obliges all the major states to live together in the Vennes hall. While seventeen countries modestly limited themselves to a stand in the hall, others more often than not decided to erect a specific pavilion in order to assert their nationalism. The emerging states are thus seeking a certain recognition outside their borders by building constructions that clearly assert their differences. This is the case for most of the Balkan countries: Montenegro, participating for the first time in an event of this type, or Bulgaria, whose independence was recognised in 1877. As for Serbia, the state that was quickest to return its official membership, it had an Orthodox monastery reproduced, symbolic of the end of the Ottoman yoke.

Other new countries also accepted the invitation at short notice: Norway, which wanted to mark its separation from Sweden, and Canada, which wanted to clearly display its status as the first British "dominion". These pavilions, with their typical architecture, were grouped together at the Boverie and were intended to bear witness to the new autonomy of these states on the international scene.