In 1873, a Londoner named John Hendrey proposed to the city of Blankenberge to build a pier at the height of Kerkstraat. The city council refused, as the central location threatened to split the seaside resort. Proposals from 1881 (Tackels) and 1883 (James Brunlees) were also rejected.
First structure (1894-1914)
In 1888, engineer E. Wyhowski (Brugge) and architect E. Hellemans (Elsene) developed a design for a pier on the east side. This time, the city of Blankenberge agreed with the proposal of the “Societe Anonyme du Pier de Blankenberghe”. In February 1894, contractor Monnoyer started work and on Sunday, August 12, 1894, the first visitors walked over the cast iron pier in Art Nouveau style. The octagonal platform at the end carried an elegant glass and metal pavilion.
The pier proved to be a huge tourist attraction, but it would barely last twenty years. On October 15, 1914, it was burned down by the German occupiers. The destruction was presented as a defensive measure.
Second structure (1933-2005)
After World War I, the city council of Blankenberge looked for a solution for the unsightly skeleton of the destroyed pier. They bought the building from the former owner for a sum of 435,000 francs. Thanks to the damage compensation of 900,000 francs, plans could be made for a new pier.
In 1930, the city decided to build the new pier itself. The conductor of Bridges and Roads Jules Soete, assisted by Ghent professor G. Magnel and Ghent architect A. Bouquet, drew up a design with Art Deco influences. The inauguration took place on July 9, 1933.
For the first four years, the Luna Star amusement park was housed on the pier. In 1938, the concession came into the hands of G. Mathonet and L. Van Bladel, but the outbreak of World War II drastically shortened this concession. During World War II, the pier remained intact because German sergeant Karl-Heinz Keseberg ignored the order from his superiors to dynamite the pier. A friendship between Keseberg and the Blankenberge city council has remained in place ever since. In 1994, he was even honored.
After the war, the pier was renamed Aquarama and from 1955 to 1999 the building was part of the Meli amusement park (now Plopsaland De Panne) in Adinkerke.
Between 1999 and 2003, the pier was extensively renovated after concrete rot was found. As part of the renovation, additional floors were built in the water, which did not improve the stability or transparency of the structure. After the work, the pier was listed as a monument (2004).
Today, the pier is a leisure complex with various restaurants, an auditorium, and exhibition space. There is also an edutainment event Storms to be experienced.
The Fonteintjes are a long, narrow dune area with dune lakes and wet dune grasslands. The area lies between Blankenberge and Zeebrugge on the one hand and the sea and the coastal road on the other.
The Fonteintjes were created when the sea broke through the dunes and was stopped by the Graaf Jansdijk. Due to excavation work to make the Graaf Jansdijk stronger for the train, deeper pools were created. These pools contain fresh water just 100 meters from the sea. The rainwater is stored under the dune and forms a freshwater lens that pushes out the salty seawater. Despite many plans such as parking area, water sports area, landfill, etc., the area was saved and in 1978 one of the first nature reserves of Natuurpunt.
To preserve and even promote this plant diversity, the wet dune grasslands are mowed and mowed in the late summer by professionals and dozens of volunteers. This keeps the soil poor and the seedlings get enough light to provide a new flower abundance. In winter, when there is enough thick ice, part of the reed is mowed to make it stronger.