Knokke, Belgium | C.1921

Photo Credit: Matthijs Van Mierlo

Merely a few years before Alberstrand was filled with quaint cottages and beachfront buildings, Belgium was afflicted by the German occupation of WW1. But it wasn’t just the end of the War that brought forth the now-popular sea resort. In 1920, a rough storm rocked the coast, tearing down its sea wall,  but carving out a space for a new development to emerge.

The land left exposed by the seawall collapse was owned by Société de Knocke-Duinbergen-Extension, a successful development company. Unfortunately the company lost all its value after the destruction and was sold to wealthy industrialist and Belgian senator, Joseph Nellens.

Thankfully Nellens had a grand vision to create a thriving seaside resort. He proposed his plans to the Ministry of Public Works, and upon approval went to work on developing the land. Within a year, his dream had come to fruition. He named the beach Alberstrand or “Albert Beach” after King Albert, a celebrated WW1 veteran and one of Belgium’s most beloved monarchs.

Along with transforming the beach, Nellens set out to bring housing to the coast. He referred to plans originally created in 1900 by renowned German architect and urbanist Hermann-Josef Stübben. After the cottages were completed, the sea wall was reconstructed, and a casino was eventually built, with Nellens as director.

Today, Alberstrand remains a popular seaside destination. The beach is one of five within the town of Knokke and is characterized by its contemporary appeal. The casino remains a main attraction, and the business has stayed in family — Joseph Nellens’ grandson Jacques is now the director of the casino, following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps.

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