The Vinegar Factory « L’Etoile » has a long and interesting history. It was founded in Brussels in 1886 by Pierre-Eugène Vanden Hoff, a young pharmacist who set up a new strategy based on dates for the production of vinegar. His goal was to make vinegar of quality and accessible to everyone. At the time, the company was called the « Grande Vinaigrerie Nationale ».
Successful since its beginning, the structure started gradually to become more important. It becomes the « Vinaigrerie L’Etoile ». The company did encounter several twists but stood firm against the competition, as well as the financial problems of its main shareholder. It is a certain Robert Dothey who takes the reins of the company shortly before the beginning of the Great War. Later, he would be replaced by his descendants, allowing the company to prosper for several decades despite the wars.
The business boomed in the 50s, before facing a big problem in 1968, when the Belgian Government decides to expropriate the workshops of the factory located Rue de la Loi to build its upcoming European buildings. Quickly, the company found new quarters and moved to Wavre. It is precisely these new workshops that were the subject of my visit and my pictures.
The company still grew during the years, until January 2007. Facing poor financial results and a considerable rise in the price of alcohol during the 2 previous years, the property was sold to the Dutch group de Burg.
With a staff of about fifteen members, the vinegar factory of Wavre manufactured during its last years a whole series of products (15 kinds of vinegars, plus: onions, gherkins, mustard …) among which the brands L’Étoile, l’Andre and Europa.
Deserted and left abandoned shortly after its new acquisition, the site has been subject to many acts of vandalism during his last years. A fire finally put an end to the story, destroying the building on January 5, 2017. Fortunately, I was able to take pictures of the place shortly before the incident took place, allowing me to share this testimony of an amazing past today.
As for now, the site is undergoing a redevelopment project in the form of a large 120-meter-high hotel with a capacity of 204 rooms. Plans have been submitted to the municipality of Wavre in October 2016 and are now waiting for their execution.