The founding of the Society for Urban Welfare, soon renamed the Royal Philanthropic Society, dates back to 1828. Originally created to address the problem of begging, it very quickly diversified its activities, focusing on people affected by blindness as well as infants whose parents were obliged to work. In around 1845, it established the first crèche in Brussels. A short time later, it hired architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar to develop plans for a hospice for the blind. The building chosen, built in a neo-_Tudor style, forms a U shape and can accommodate 84 beds. It was built on the edge of Boulevard du Midi/Zuidlaan between 1849 and 1855, thanks to a substantial donation from Louis-François de Ghendt de Lenglentier. Over 300 other benefactors soon followed suit. In recognition of their gesture, the names of 84 of them were included on the façades of the institution. In 1878, the society had 2,765 members, whose annual subscriptions also supported its activities. The building was entirely renovated in the late 1990s. In 1999, Dominique Baerten, then studying at the Arthur Haulot Horticultural College in Anderlecht, assisted by an occupational therapist, created a garden specially designed for visually-impaired persons. Among other things it features raised flowerbeds to facilitate sensory contact via touch and smell. A system of handrails also enables visually-impaired persons to move around, without assistance, through this small haven of greenery, filled with perfumed plant varieties, at the edge of Boulevard du Midi/Zuidlaan.
Walking tour “Exploring the green lung of Saint-Gilles…”.