The Biermans-Lapôtre couple

Jean-Hubert Biermans was born in Herkenbosch, Dutch Limburg, on December 31, 1864 into a family of modest means. In 1877, he starts working on the railway sites of the engineer and entrepreneur Florent Lapôtre. A few years later, Biermans coveted the daughter of the "boss", Berthe Lapôtre, born on March 10, 1866, in Agimont (in the province of Namur) but her father turned him away because he did not want to marry his daughter to a subordinate.

Biermans was employed from 1889 to 1898 by the Congo Railway Company. But he ended up working for General Thys, Leopold II's secretary and trusted man, who sent him to Canada in 1900 to control one of his companies. In 1903, Biermans created the Belgo Pulp and Paper Cy in Shawinigan, which produced pulp and newsprint and prospered at the turn of the century.

In the meantime, in 1904, Berthe found herself widowed with a son, Florent (born March 26, 1897), whose health was precarious. Hubert Biermans waited for his time with determination... He corresponded for two good years with the daughter of his former boss before finally marrying her, in 1907, in Middelkerke (near Ostend). The Biermans-Lapôtre couple became Canadian citizens and made donations to educational institutions such as the Collège Stanislas de Montréal or the Universities of Montréal, McGill and Laval. In the fall of 1926, Biermans having ceased to be an "industrialist" strictly speaking, the couple returned to Europe. Biermans invested its assets in a dozen banks and invested, bought, resold... 

The couple leads a life of active retirement, very well off, between their French, Canadian and Monegasque residences. However, it is mainly in France that the couple settles. When they give to an association whose values they share, they demand nothing more in return than to see both their names on commemorative plaques. Biermans will then make donations to numerous Belgian associations that will allow him to be decorated by King Leopold III on July 24th during the International Exhibition of "Arts and Techniques in Modern Life".  

The Foundation History

In this desire to "redistribute" its fortune, Biermans has been the most generous to France, by having the Biermans-Lapôtre Foundation erected on the site of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris (CIUP). Once again, the couple donated 15,000,000 gold francs, which was needed to build and fit out the pavilion.

How did the Cité internationale universitaire de Paris (CIUP) project appeal to the Biermans? One of its main initiators, André Honnorat, wanted to contribute to the positioning of France as the world's intellectual capital. Minister of Public Instruction, he defended the idea of setting aside 20 hectares of land within the fortified enclosure of 1841, which was then being destroyed. They would have been put at the disposal of the University of Paris for the purpose of building student houses. 

At the very beginning of the 1920s, Biermans was looking for land to build a residence for "about sixty Belgian and Dutch engineers". Honnorat convinces Biermans to think bigger. Originally, the Biermans would have liked the Foundation to be the immediate neighbor of "their Canadian friends," but, as early as June 20, 1924, the City's Architectural Commission had determined the location of the Belgian pavilion "at the corner of Boulevard Jourdan and the alley leading to the entrance facing Rue Gazan.

The Foundation was inaugurated on November 04, 1927. Because of the nature of its funding, it was a "non-attached house", i.e. a Foundation with its own Board of Directors, free to act, however, in accordance with the regulations in force on the Cité campus.

Since the death of Biermans in 1953, the Ambassador of Belgium is the president of the Biermans-Lapôtre Foundation .

Our opening hours

The foundation is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The administration is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Contact us

communication@fbl-paris.org
(+33)(0)1 40 78 74 26

Visit us

9A boulevard Jourdan 
Paris, 75014
France

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