The Grand Hotel Bellevue or popularly called 'De Rotonde' is the first jewel of Westende, Zeedijk 300. It was designed by the famous art-nouveau architect Octave Van Rysselberghe and was protected as a monument in 1983.
The Grand Hotel Belle Vue is one of the milestones in the tourist history of Middelkerke and Westende. It was signed by the famous art nouveau architect Octave Van Rysselberghe. The building is protected and restored in its original style. It was erected in 1909 and remained the only building in Westende bath after the first world war. This was due to his construction of reinforced concrete. During the interbellum, many members of the royal family spent their holidays there.
In the first decade of the 20th century it became clear that Westende needed a second large hotel accommodation. The Westend Hotel in the center of the resort could no longer meet the demand for accommodation. In 1909, the "S.A. Grand Hotel Bellevue" was established with the aim of building a second seawall hotel. The largest shareholders were Max Hallet, the vice-governor of Congo, Francis Dhanis and architect Octave van Rysselberghe, who provided the design for the new complex. The latter thanked his fame at the time to the work for the Compagnie des Grands-Hôtels Européens. For this society he realized the Royal Palace Hotel in Ostend and the Rivièra Palace Hôtel in Beausoleil.
Octave van Rysselberghe (1855 - 1929) built various city halls in Brussels at the beginning of his career. First in a classic Italianising style and later in the modern Art Nouveau style, working together with the architect Henry van de Velde. The Art Nouveau principles emerged most clearly in the mansion that he designed for Paul Otlet in 1894.
During his work for the Compagnie des Grands-Hôtels, around 1900, it seemed that his style became more old-fashioned. However, when he became involved in Westende's design in 1903, his style of architecture changed considerably. Although Kursaal, built in 1904, was still in a country style, the unique Grand Hotel Bellevue became the first and most extreme example of its new rational design principles. Van Rysselberghe designed a rectangular building that ended on the east side in a semi-circular extension.
The construction method was also modern: a skeleton of reinforced concrete was covered with natural stone slabs between which the joints were painted in a contrasting color. In the exterior, the layout of the hotel was recognizable: each room had a loggia and the staircases could be recognized on the outside by ascending window lines.
On the ground floor, the central hall led to the monumental marble staircase next to the elevator, and to the restaurant, the banquet hall with accompanying service rooms, the bar and the correspondence room. The breakfast room / café was on the sea side. With nice weather the windows were open to the terrace. The big party room was in the heart of the building. This large space was divided by paired columns and the coffered ceiling had six square skylights. There was a podium on the short side.
The opening took place in June 1911. Two hundred twenty-five rooms, two elevators and sixteen baths with warm seawater were at the disposal of the guests. Hydrotherapy 'avant la lettre' for a rich clientele as it were. In the First World War Westende was largely destroyed. The Bellevue survived, albeit badly damaged, the violence of war. The reconstruction did not completely follow the original state. The fact that the hotel could be rebuilt was due to the strong concrete construction that had largely kept the complex intact. In 1922, "Westendaise S.A. Forcière et Industrielle", which also owned the Westend Hotel, took over the Bellevue and the company thus acquired the only two large hotels in Westende.
'Sur une plage and vogue ... Dance un Palace renommé ... Des appartements modernes ... La vie confortable d'avant-guerre au prix d'avant guerre ...'
This was an appealing text to lure the tourists to Grand Hotel Bellevue again. In 1925, tennis courts were built for that reason. The Société tried to keep Westende as mundane as possible in all ways. During the Interbellum the seaside resort also acted as a "plage d'élite". Many members of the then royal family and their court attended the hotel suites between the two world wars, and spent their holidays in the prestigious Bellevue. The presence of the noble company formed a special charm for the well-to-do bourgeoisie, who settled in the hotel and liked to enjoy the regal climate.
The stay in such a hotel was obviously quite pricey, so a room with bath and toilet cost 25 francs per night (updated about 6 000 francs or € 150). But after the high season, which ran from 15 July to 1 September, considerable discounts were granted.
The restaurant with the appropriate name "Rotonde" finds its name in the round extension. A curved row of eleven classically inspired fantasy pillars divides the space into two semicircular parts. In all likelihood, Rysselberghe was influenced by the design of the Rotonde by the restaurant that his colleague Edouard Niermans built for the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz.
There were also slender white, in this case Egyptianizing columns in the semi-circular space. The decoration and decor of the Grand Hotel Bellevue was very classic compared to the revolutionary exterior. The whole showed influences from the long journeys undertaken by Rysselberghe to Italy - such as the classical elements of Andrea Palladio: the soberly balanced form of the whole building and the tripartite windows.
A number of elements even remind of Moroccan palaces construction, such as the 'lace-shaped' design of the balustrades and the mathematically-oriented rhythm of the façades.
The flat roof was arranged as a terrace, from where one had a beautiful view over the sea and the dunes. To maintain the guests, concerts and dance evenings were organized in the banquet hall. In the cafe on the sea side, the guest could take part in the afternoon tea.
Within two kilometers there was a possibility of golfing. The private beach reserved for the guests was in front of the hotel, and could easily be reached via a staircase in the seawall embankment. Station "Westende Bellevue", where the tram from Ostend still stops today, was specially built near the hotel.