Saturday, 15 February 2020


Brussels, Belgium
The Grandma is still visiting Brussels. Yesterday was a rainy day and The Grandma was relaxing at hotel talking with her friends and reading about the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of Chicago. Today, the weather is fantastic and The Grandma has visited the most popular places of a beautiful city symbol of the European spirit of freedom and respect.

Brussels, in French Bruxelles and in Dutch Brussel, is the Brussels-Capital Region (Région de Bruxelles-Capitale / Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest), is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium.

The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region, which forms an enclave, and the Walloon Region.

More information: City of Brussels

Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 162 km2, a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of over 1.2 million.

The metropolitan area of Brussels comprises over 2.5 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

Brussels grew from a small rural settlement on the river Senne to become an important city-region in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, it has been a major centre for international politics and home to numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.

 More information: Brussels

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions, including its administrative-legislative, executive-political, and legislative branches, though the judicial branch is located in Luxembourg, and the European Parliament meets for a minority of the year in Strasbourg. Its name is sometimes used metonymically to describe the EU and its institutions.

The secretariat of the Benelux and headquarters of NATO are also located in Brussels. As the economic capital of Belgium and one of the top financial centres of Western Europe with Euronext Brussels, it is classified as an Alpha global city.

The Grandma visits the Atomium, Brussels
Brussels is a hub for rail, road and air traffic, sometimes earning the moniker Crossroads of Europe. The Brussels Metro is the only rapid transit system in Belgium. In addition, both its airport and railway stations are the largest and busiest in the country.

Historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels saw a language shift to French from the late 19th century. The Brussels-Capital Region is officially bilingual in French and Dutch, even though French is now the de facto main language with over 90% of the population speaking it. Brussels is also increasingly becoming multilingual. English is spoken as a second language by nearly a third of the population and many migrants and expatriates speak other languages as well.

Brussels is known for its cuisine and gastronomy, as well as its historical and architectural landmarks; some of them are registered as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Main attractions include its historic Grand Place, Manneken Pis, Atomium, and cultural institutions such as La Monnaie/De Munt and the Museums of Art and History. Due to its long tradition of Belgian comics, Brussels is also hailed as a capital of the comic strip.

 More information: Introducing Brussels

The most common theory of the origin of the name Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Bruocsella, Broekzele or Broeksel, meaning marsh (bruoc/broek) and home (sella/zele/sel) or home in the marsh. Saint Vindicianus, the bishop of Cambrai, made the first recorded reference to the place Brosella in 695, when it was still a hamlet. The names of all the municipalities in the Brussels-Capital Region are also of Dutch origin, except for Evere, which is Celtic.

The history of Brussels is closely linked to that of Western Europe. Traces of human settlement go back to the Stone Age, with vestiges and place-names related to the civilisation of megaliths, dolmens and standing stones. Plattesteen in the City of Brussels and Tomberg in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, for example.

More information: Visit Brussels

During late antiquity, the region was home to Roman occupation, as attested by archaeological evidence discovered on the site of Tour & Taxis. Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, it was incorporated into the Frankish Empire. The origin of the settlement which was to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580. 

The Grandma inside the Atomium, Brussels
The official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel, located in today's province of East Flanders, to Saint Gaugericus' chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island.

Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven, gained the County of Brussels around 1000, by marrying Charles' daughter. Because of its location on the shores of the Senne, on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, and Cologne, Brussels became a commercial centre specialised in the textile trade. The town grew quite rapidly and extended towards the upper town (Treurenberg, Coudenberg and Sablon/Zavel areas), where there was a smaller risk of floods.

As it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. Around this time, work began on what is now the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (1225), replacing an older Romanesque church. In 1183, the Counts of Leuven became Dukes of Brabant.

Brabant, unlike the county of Flanders, was not fief of the king of France but was incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire. In the early 13th century, the first Fortifications of Brussels were built, and after this, the city grew significantly. To let the city expand, a second set of walls was erected between 1356 and 1383. Traces of these can still be seen, although the small ring, a series of roadways bounding the historic city centre, follows its former course.

More information: Agenda Brussels

In the 15th century, the marriage between heiress Margaret III of Flanders and Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, produced a new Duke of Brabant of the House of Valois, namely Antoine, their son.

In 1477, the Burgundian duke Charles the Bold perished in the Battle of Nancy. Through the marriage of his daughter Mary of Burgundy, who was born in Brussels, to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the Low Countries fell under Habsburg sovereignty.

Brabant was integrated into this composite state, and Brussels flourished as the Princely Capital of the prosperous Burgundian Netherlands, also known as the Seventeen Provinces. After the death of Mary in 1482, her son Philip the Handsome succeeded as Duke of Burgundy and Brabant.

Visiting the Flemish Parliament, Brussels
Philip died in 1506, and he was succeeded by his son Charles V who then also became King of Spain, crowned in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, and even Holy Roman Emperor at the death of his grandfather Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.

Charles was now the ruler of a Habsburg Empire on which the sun never sets with Brussels serving as his main capital. It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V was declared of age in 1515, and it was there that he abdicated all of his possessions and passed the Habsburg Netherlands to Philip II of Spain. This impressive palace, famous all over Europe, had greatly expanded since it had first become the seat of the Dukes of Brabant, but it was destroyed by fire in 1731.

In the 17th century, Brussels was a centre for the lace industry. In 1695, during the Nine Years' War, King Louis XIV of France sent troops to bombard Brussels with artillery. Together with the resulting fire, it was the most destructive event in the entire history of Brussels.

The Grand Place was destroyed, along with 4,000 buildings -a third of all the buildings in the city. The reconstruction of the city centre, effected during subsequent years, profoundly changed its appearance and left numerous traces still visible today.

More information: Visit Flanders

Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Spanish sovereignty over the Southern Netherlands was transferred to the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg. This event started the era of the Austrian Netherlands. Brussels was captured by France in 1746, during the War of the Austrian Succession, but was handed back to Austria three years later.

It remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands were captured and annexed by France, and the city became the capital of the department of the Dyle.

The French rule ended in 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon on the battlefield of Waterloo, located south of today's Brussels-Capital Region. With the Congress of Vienna, the Southern Netherlands joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, under William I of Orange. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capital.

The Manneken Pis, Brussels
In 1830, the Belgian revolution began in Brussels, after a performance of Auber's opera La Muette de Portici at the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie. The city became the capital and seat of government of the new nation.

South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its administrative centre. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings.

Following independence, Brussels underwent many more changes. It became a financial centre, thanks to the dozens of companies launched by the Société Générale de Belgique. The Industrial Revolution and the building of the Brussels-Charleroi Canal brought prosperity to the city through commerce and manufacturing. The Free University of Brussels was established in 1834 and Saint-Louis University in 1858.

In 1835, the first passenger railway built outside England linked the municipality of Molenbeek with Mechelen.

During the 19th century, the population of Brussels grew considerably; from about 80,000 to more than 625,000 people for the city and its surroundings.

More information: The Culture Trip

The Senne had become a serious health hazard, and from 1867 to 1871, under the tenure of mayor Jules Anspach, its entire course through the urban area was completely covered over. This allowed urban renewal and the construction of modern buildings of hausmannien style along central boulevards, characteristic of downtown Brussels today.

Buildings such as the Brussels Stock Exchange (1873), the Palace of Justice (1883) and Saint Mary's Royal Church (1885) date from this period. This development continued throughout the reign of King Leopold II.

The International Exposition of 1897 contributed to the promotion of the infrastructure. Among other things, the Colonial Palace (today's Royal Museum for Central Africa), in the suburb of Tervuren, was connected to the capital by the construction of an 11-km long grand alley.

The Grandma visits Brussels, Belgium
During the 20th century, the city hosted various fairs and conferences, including the Solvay Conference on Physics and on Chemistry, and three world fairs: the Brussels International Exposition of 1910, the Brussels International Exposition of 1935 and Expo '58.

During World War I, Brussels was an occupied city, but German troops did not cause much damage. During World War II, it was again occupied by German forces, and spared major damage, before it was liberated by the British Guards Armoured Division on 3 September 1944. The Brussels Airport, in the suburb of Zaventem, dates from the occupation.

After the war, Brussels underwent extensive modernisation. The construction of the North–South connection, linking the main railway stations in the city, was completed in 1952, while the first premetro was finished in 1969, and the first line of the metro was opened in 1976.

More information: Time Out

Starting from the early 1960s, Brussels became the de facto capital of what would become the European Union, and many modern offices were built. Development was allowed to proceed with little regard to the aesthetics of newer buildings, and numerous architectural landmarks were demolished to make way for newer buildings that often clashed with their surroundings, giving name to the process of Brusselisation.

The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989, after a constitutional reform in 1988. It is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia, and has bilingual status. The yellow iris is the emblem of the region, referring to the presence of these flowers on the city's original site, and a stylised version in shown on its official flag.

More information: The Crazy Tourist

Despite its name, the Brussels-Capital Region is not the capital of Belgium. Article 194 of the Belgian Constitution establishes that the capital of Belgium is the City of Brussels, the municipality in the region that is the city's core.

The City of Brussels is the location of many national institutions. The Royal Palace, where the King of the Belgians exercises his prerogatives as head of state, is situated alongside Brussels' Park, not to be confused with the Royal Castle of Laeken, the official home of the Belgian Royal Family.

The Grandma visits Brussels, Belgium
The Palace of the Nation is located on the opposite side of this park, and is the seat of the Belgian Federal Parliament. The office of the Prime Minister of Belgium, colloquially called Law Street 16, in French 16, rue de la Loi and in Dutch Wetstraat 16, is located adjacent to this building. It is also where the Council of Ministers holds its meetings.

The Court of Cassation, Belgium's main court, has its seat in the Palace of Justice. Other important institutions in the City of Brussels are the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, the Court of Audit, the Royal Belgian Mint and the National Bank of Belgium.

The City of Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community. The Flemish Parliament and Flemish Government have their seats in Brussels, and so do the Parliament of the French Community and the Government of the French Community.

More information: The Travel Magazine

Brussels is home to a large number of immigrants. At the last Belgian census in 1991, 63.7% of inhabitants in Brussels-Capital Region answered that they were Belgian citizens, born as such in Belgium. However, there have been numerous individual or familial migrations towards Brussels since the end of the 18th century, including political refugees (Karl Marx, Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Léon Daudet, Auguste Rodin, Alexandre Dumas, Friedrich Engels, Rafael Correa, Josep Valtònyc, Toni Comín and Carles Puigdemont), from neighbouring or more distant countries, as well as labour migrants, former foreign students or expatriates, and many Belgian families in Brussels can claim at least one foreign grandparent.

Brussels has a large concentration of immigrants from other countries, and their children, including many of Moroccan (Riffian, Berber) and Turkish ancestry, together with French-speaking black Africans from former Belgian colonies, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

The Grandma visits Brussels, Belgium
People of foreign origin make up nearly 70% of the population of Brussels, most of whom have been naturalised following the great 1991 reform of the naturalisation process. 

About 32% of city residents are of non-Belgian European origin, and 36% are of another background, mostly from Morocco, Turkey and Sub-Saharan Africa. Among all major migrant groups from outside the EU, a majority of the permanent residents have acquired Belgian nationality.

The architecture in Brussels is diverse, and spans from the clashing combination of Gothic, Baroque, and Louis XIV styles on the Grand Place to the postmodern buildings of the EU institutions.

Very little medieval architecture is preserved in Brussels. Buildings from that period are mostly found in the historic centre (called Îlot Sacré), Saint Géry/Sint-Goriks and Sainte-Catherine/Sint Katelijne neighbourhoods. The Brabantine Gothic Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula remains a prominent feature in the skyline of downtown Brussels.

More information: The Telegraph

Isolated portions of the first city walls were saved from destruction and can be seen to this day. One of the only remains of the second walls is the Halle Gate. The Grand Place is the main attraction in the city centre and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.

The square is dominated by the 15th century Flamboyant Town Hall, the neo-Gothic Breadhouse and the Baroque guildhalls of the Guilds of Brussels. Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a small bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Visiting Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
The Atomium is a symbolic 103-metre tall modernist structure, located on the Heysel Plateau, which was originally built for the 1958 World's Fair (Expo '58).

It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal (specifically, a unit cell), magnified 165 billion times. The architect A. Waterkeyn devoted the building to science. It is now considered a landmark of Brussels.

Since the founding of the Kingdom of Belgium in 1830, Brussels has transformed from being almost entirely Dutch-speaking (Brabantian dialect to be exact), to being a multilingual city with French (specifically Belgian French) as the majority language and lingua franca. 

This language shift, the Francisation of Brussels, is rooted in the 18th century and accelerated after Belgium became independent and Brussels expanded past its original boundaries.

More information: The Guardian

Brussels contains over 80 museums. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts has an extensive collection of various painters, such as Flemish old masters like Bruegel, Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin, Anthony van Dyck, Jacob Jordaens, and Peter Paul Rubens. The Magritte Museum houses the world's largest collection of the works of the surrealist René Magritte.

Brussels is also a capital of the comic strip; some treasured Belgian characters are Tintin, Lucky Luke, The Smurfs, Spirou, Gaston, Marsupilami, Blake and Mortimer, Boule et Bill and Cubitus. Throughout the city, walls are painted with large motifs of comic book characters; these murals taken together are known as Brussels' Comic Book Route. Also, the interiors of some Metro stations are designed by artists. 

The Belgian Comic Strip Center combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style.

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers. The Brussels sprout, which has long been popular in Brussels, and may have originated there, is also named after the city.

Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare.

Notable specialities include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules-frites, served with fries).

The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Côte d'Or, Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Pralines were first introduced in 1912, by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier of Swiss origin, in the Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries.

As well as other Belgian beers, the spontaneously fermented lambic style, brewed in and around Brussels, is widely available there and in the nearby Senne valley where the wild yeasts which ferment it have their origin. Kriek, a cherry lambic, is available in almost every bar or restaurant in Brussels.

More information: Beer Project

Brussels is a gay little city
that lies as bright within its girdle
of woodland as any butterfly that rests upon moss.


Friday, 14 February 2020


Saint Valentine's Massacre Victims
Today, The Grandma has been reading about the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, the murder of seven members and associates of Chicago's North Side Gang. It was a terrible story occurred in Chicago on a day like today in 1929. This massacre was a result of the struggle between Irish North Siders and Italian South Siders.

The history of the city of Chicago is deeply related with gangsters and mobs, especially during the 20's in the last century. It was a dark time full of crimes and violence, a time that must be remembered to understand Chicago and its past.

The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre was the 1929 Valentine's Day murder of seven members and associates of Chicago's North Side Gang. The men were gathered at a Lincoln Park garage on the morning of Valentine's Day. They were lined up against a wall and shot by four unknown assailants who were dressed like police officers.

The incident resulted from the struggle to control organized crime in the city during Prohibition between the Irish North Siders, headed by George Bugs Moran, and their Italian South Side rivals led by Al Capone.

The perpetrators have never been conclusively identified, but former members of the Egan's Rats gang working for Capone are suspected of a significant role, as are members of the Chicago Police Department who allegedly wanted revenge for the killing of a police officer's son.

At 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, February 14, 1929, seven men were murdered at the garage at 2122 North Clark Street, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side.

More information: Block Club Chicago

They were shot by four men using weapons that included two Thompson submachine guns. Two of the shooters were dressed as uniformed policemen, while the others wore suits, ties, overcoats, and hats. Witnesses saw the fake police leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage after the shooting.

The victims included five members of George Bugs Moran's North Side Gang. Moran's second in command and brother-in-law Albert Kachellek, alias James Clark, was killed along with Adam Heyer, the gang's bookkeeper and business manager, Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran, and gang enforcers Frank Gusenberg and Peter Gusenberg. Two collaborators were also shot: Reinhardt H. Schwimmer, a former optician turned gambler and gang associate, and John May, an occasional mechanic for the Moran gang.

Real Chicago police officers arrived at the scene to find that victim Frank Gusenberg was still alive. He was taken to the hospital, where doctors stabilized him for a short time and police tried to question him. He had sustained 14 bullet wounds; the police asked him who did it, and he replied, No one shot me. He died three hours later.

Saint Valentine's Massacre on Newspapers
Al Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine's Day Massacre in an attempt to eliminate Bugs Moran, head of the North Side Gang.

Moran was the last survivor of the North Side gunmen; his succession had come about because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader Dean O'Banion. Several factors contributed to the timing of the plan to kill Moran. Earlier in the year, North Sider Frank Gusenberg and his brother Peter unsuccessfully attempted to murder Jack McGurn. The North Side Gang was complicit in the murders of Pasqualino Patsy Lolordo and Antonio The Scourge Lombardo. Both had been presidents of the Unione Siciliana, the local Mafia, and close associates of Capone.

Moran and Capone had been vying for control of the lucrative Chicago bootlegging trade. Moran had also been muscling in on a Capone-run dog track in the Chicago suburbs, and he had taken over several saloons that were run by Capone, insisting that they were in his territory.

The plan was to lure Moran to the SMC Cartage warehouse on North Clark Street on February 14, 1929 to kill him and perhaps two or three of his lieutenants. It is usually assumed that the North Siders were lured to the garage with the promise of a stolen, cut-rate shipment of whiskey, supplied by Detroit's Purple Gang which was associated with Capone.

More information: The Mob Museum

The Gusenberg brothers were supposed to drive two empty trucks to Detroit that day to pick up two loads of stolen Canadian whiskey. All of the victims were dressed in their best clothes, with the exception of John May, as was customary for the North Siders and other gangsters at the time.

Most of the Moran gang arrived at the warehouse by approximately 10:30 a.m. on Valentine's Day, but Moran was not there, having left his Parkway Hotel apartment late. He and fellow gang member Ted Newberry approached the rear of the warehouse from a side street when they saw a police car approaching the building.

They immediately turned and retraced their steps, going to a nearby coffee shop. They encountered gang member Henry Gusenberg on the street and warned him, so also he turned back. North Side Gang member Willie Marks also spotted the police car on his way to the garage, and he ducked into a doorway and jotted down the license number before leaving the neighborhood.

Saint Valentine's Massacre Scenery
Capone's lookouts likely mistook one of Moran's men for Moran himself, probably Albert Weinshank, who was the same height and build. The physical similarity between the two men was enhanced by their dress that morning; both happened to be wearing the same color overcoats and hats. Witnesses outside the garage saw a Cadillac sedan pull to a stop in front of the garage.

Four men emerged and walked inside, two of them dressed in police uniform. The two fake police officers carried shotguns and entered the rear portion of the garage, where they found members of Moran's gang and collaborators Reinhart Schwimmer and John May, who was fixing one of the trucks. The fake policemen then ordered the men to line up against the wall. They then signaled to the pair in civilian clothes who had accompanied them. Two of the killers opened fire with Thompson sub-machine guns, one with a 20-round box magazine and the other a 50-round drum.

They were thorough, spraying their victims left and right, even continuing to fire after all seven had hit the floor. Two shotgun blasts afterward all but obliterated the faces of John May and James Clark, according to the coroner's report.

To give the appearance that everything was under control, the men in street clothes came out with their hands up, prodded by the two uniformed policemen. Inside the garage, the only survivors in the warehouse were May's dog Highball and Frank Gusenberg -despite 14 bullet wounds. He was still conscious, but he died three hours later, refusing to utter a word about the identities of the killers. The Valentine's Day Massacre set off a public outcry which posed a problem for all mob bosses.

More information: ThoughtCo

Within days, Capone received a summons to testify before a Chicago grand jury on charges of federal Prohibition violations, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend.

It was common knowledge that Moran was hijacking Capone's Detroit-based liquor shipments, and police focused their attention on Detroit's predominantly Jewish Purple Gang. Landladies Mrs. Doody and Mrs. Orvidson had taken in three men as roomers ten days before the massacre, and their rooming houses were directly across the street from the Clark Street garage.

Saint Valentine's Massacre
They picked out mug shots of Purple members George Lewis, Eddie Fletcher, Phil Keywell, and his younger brother Harry, but they later wavered in their identification. The police questioned and cleared Fletcher, Lewis, and Harry Keywell. 

Nevertheless, the Keywell brothers, and by extension the Purple Gang, remained ensnared in the massacre case for all time. Many also believed what the killers wanted them to believe: that the police did it. On February 22, police were called to the scene of a garage fire on Wood Street where they found a 1927 Cadillac Sedan disassembled and partially burned, and they determined that the killers had used the car. They traced the engine number to a Michigan Avenue dealer who had sold the car to a James Morton of Los Angeles.

The garage had been rented by a man calling himself Frank Rogers, who gave his address as 1859 West North Avenue. This was the address of the Circus Café operated by Claude Maddox, a former St. Louis gangster with ties to the Capone Gang, the Purple Gang, and a St. Louis gang called Egan's Rats.

More information: The Crime Mag

Police could not turn up any information about persons named James Morton or Frank Rogers, but they had a definite lead on one of the killers. Just minutes before the killings, a truck driver named Elmer Lewis had turned a corner a block away from 2122 North Clark and sideswiped a police car. He told police that he stopped immediately but was waved away by the uniformed driver, who was missing a front tooth.

Board of Education president H. Wallace Caldwell had witnessed the accident, and he gave the same description of the driver. Police were confident that they were describing Fred Burke, a former member of Egan's Rats. Burke and a close companion named James Ray were known to wear police uniforms whenever on a robbery spree. Burke was also a fugitive, under indictment for robbery and murder in Ohio. Police also suggested that Joseph Lolordo could have been one of the killers because of his brother Pasqualino's recent murder by the North Side Gang.

Bugs Morgan & Al Capone
Police then announced that they suspected Capone gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi, as well as Jack McGurn and Frank Rio, a Capone bodyguard.

Police eventually charged McGurn and Scalise with the massacre. Capone murdered John Scalise, Anselmi, and Joseph Hop Toad Giunta in May 1929 after he learned about their plan to kill him. The police dropped the murder charges against Jack McGurn because of a lack of evidence, and he was just charged with a violation of the Mann Act; he took his girlfriend Louise Rolfe across state lines to marry. The case stagnated until December 14, 1929, when the Berrien County, Michigan Sheriff's Department raided the St. Joseph, Michigan bungalow of Frederick Dane, the registered owner of a vehicle driven by Fred Killer Burke. Burke had been drinking that night, then rear-ended another vehicle and drove off.

Patrolman Charles Skelly pursued, finally forcing him off the road. Skelly hopped onto the running board of Burke's car, but he was shot three times and died of his wounds that night. The car was found wrecked and abandoned just outside St. Joseph and traced to Fred Dane. By this time, police photos confirmed that Dane was in fact Fred Burke, wanted by the Chicago police for his participation in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Police raided Burke's bungalow and found a large trunk containing a bullet-proof vest, almost $320,000 in bonds recently stolen from a Wisconsin bank, two Thompson submachine guns, pistols, two shotguns, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. St. Joseph authorities immediately notified the Chicago police, who requested both machine guns.

More information: CBS News

They used the new science of forensic ballistics to identify both weapons as those used in the massacre. They also discovered that one of them had also been used to murder New York mobster Frankie Yale a year and a half earlier. Unfortunately, no further concrete evidence surfaced in the massacre case. Burke was captured over a year later on a Missouri farm. The case against him was strongest in connection to the murder of Officer Skelly, so he was tried in Michigan and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. He died in prison in 1940.

On January 8, 1935, FBI agents surrounded a Chicago apartment building at 3920 North Pine Grove looking for the remaining members of the Barker Gang. A brief shootout erupted, resulting in the death of bank robber Russell Gibson. Taken into custody were Doc Barker, Byron Bolton, and two women. Bolton was a Navy machine-gunner and associate of Egan's Rats, and he had been the valet of Chicago hit man Fred Goetz.

Saint Valentine's Massacre
Bolton was privy to many of the Barker Gang's crimes and pinpointed the Florida hideout of Ma Barker and Freddie Barker, both of whom were killed in a shootout with the FBI a week later. Bolton claimed to have taken part in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre with Goetz, Fred Burke, and several others.

The FBI had no jurisdiction in a state murder case, so they kept Bolton's revelations confidential until the Chicago American newspaper reported a second-hand version of his confession. The newspaper declared that the crime had been solved, despite being stonewalled by J. Edgar Hoover and the Bureau, who did not want any part of the massacre case. Garbled versions of Bolton's story went out in the national media.

Bolton, it was reported, claimed that the murder of Bugs Moran had been plotted in October or November 1928 at a Couderay, Wisconsin resort owned by Fred Goetz. Present at this meeting were Goetz, Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Fred Burke, Gus Winkler, Louis Campagna, Daniel Serritella, William Pacelli, and Bolton. The men stayed two or three weeks, hunting and fishing when they were not planning the murder of their enemies.

Bolton claimed that he and Jimmy Moran were charged with watching the S.M.C. Cartage garage and phoning the signal to the killers at the Circus Café when Bugs Moran arrived at the meeting. Police had found a letter addressed to Bolton in the lookout nest and possibly a vial of prescription medicine.

More information: All That's Interesting

Bolton guessed that the actual killers had been Burke, Winkeler, Goetz, Bob Carey, Raymond Crane Neck Nugent, and Claude Maddox -four shooters and two getaway drivers. Bolton gave an account of the massacre different from the one generally told by historians. He claimed that he saw only plainclothes men exit the Cadillac and go into the garage. This indicates that a second car was used by the killers.

George Brichet claimed to have seen at least two uniformed men exiting a car in the alley and entering the garage through its rear doors. A Peerless Motor Company sedan had been found near a Maywood house owned by Claude Maddox in the days after the massacre, and in one of the pockets was an address book belonging to victim Albert Weinshank.

Frederick R. Burke
Bolton said that he had mistaken one of Moran's men to be Moran, after which he telephoned the signal to the Circus Café. The killers had expected to kill Moran and two or three of his men, but they were unexpectedly confronted with seven men; they simply decided to kill them all and get out fast.

Bolton claimed that Capone was furious with him for his mistake and the resulting police pressure and threatened to kill him, only to be dissuaded by Fred Goetz.

His claims were corroborated by Gus Winkeler's widow Georgette in an official FBI statement and in her memoirs, which were published in a four-part series in a true detective magazine during the winter of 1935–36. She revealed that her husband and his friends had formed a special crew used by Capone for high-risk jobs.

The mob boss was said to have trusted them implicitly and nicknamed them the American Boys. Bolton's statements were also backed up by William Drury, a Chicago detective who had stayed on the massacre case long after everyone else had given up.

Bank robber Alvin Karpis later claimed to have heard secondhand from Ray Nugent about the massacre and that the American Boys were paid a collective salary of $2,000 a week plus bonuses. Karpis also claimed that Capone had told him while they were in Alcatraz together that Goetz had been the actual planner of the massacre.

More information: National Crimes Syndicate

Despite Byron Bolton's statements, no action was taken by the FBI. All the men whom he named were dead by 1935, with the exceptions of Burke and Maddox. Bank robber Harvey Bailey complained in his 1973 autobiography that he and Fred Burke had been drinking beer in Calumet City, Illinois at the time of the massacre, and the resulting heat forced them to abandon their bank robbing ventures. Historians are still divided on whether or not the American Boys committed the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Many mobsters have been named as part of the Valentine's Day hit team. Two prime suspects are Cosa Nostra hit men John Scalise and Albert Anselmi. In the days after the massacre, Scalise was heard to brag, I am the most powerful man in Chicago.

Visiting the St Valentine's Day Massacre Wall
Unione Siciliana president Joseph Guinta had recently elevated him to the position of the Unione's vice-president. Nevertheless, Scalise, Anselmi, and Guinta were found dead on a lonely road near Hammond, Indiana on May 8, 1929.

Gangland lore has it that Capone had discovered that the pair were planning to betray him. Legend states that Capone produced a baseball bat at the climax of a dinner party thrown in their honor and beat the trio to death. Police tested the two Thompson submachine guns (serial numbers 2347 and 7580) found in Fred Burke's Michigan bungalow and determined that both had been used in the massacre. One of them had also been used in the murder of Brooklyn mob boss Frankie Yale, which confirmed the New York Police 

Department's long-held theory that Burke had been responsible for Yale's death. Les Farmer, a deputy sheriff in Marion, Illinois, purchased gun number 2347 on November 12, 1924. Marion and the surrounding area were overrun by the warring bootleg factions of the Shelton Brothers Gang and Charlie Birger

Farmer had ties with Egan's Rats, based 100 miles away in St. Louis, and the weapon had wound up in Fred Burke's possession by 1927. It is possible that he used this same gun in Detroit's Milaflores Massacre on March 28, 1927.

More information: Atlas Obscura

Chicago sporting goods owner Peter von Frantzius sold gun number 7580 to a Victor Thompson, also known as Frank V. Thompson, but it wound up with James Bozo Shupe, a small-time hood from Chicago's West Side who had ties to various members of Capone's outfit. Both guns are still in the possession of the Berrien County, Michigan Sheriff's Department.

The garage at 2122 N. Clark Street was demolished in 1967, and the site is now a parking lot for a nursing home. The bricks of the north wall against which the victims were shot were purchased by a Canadian businessman. For many years, they were displayed in various crime-related novelty displays. Many of them were later sold individually, and the remainder are now owned by the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.

The victims of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre were:

-Peter Gusenberg, a front-line enforcer for the Moran organizations

-Frank Gusenberg, the brother of Peter Gusenberg and also an enforcer

-Albert Kachellek (alias James Clark), Moran's second in command

-Adam Heyer, the bookkeeper and business manager of the Moran gang

-Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who had abandoned his practice to gamble on horse racing and associate with the gang

-Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran; his resemblance to Moran is allegedly what set the massacre in motion before Moran arrived, including the clothes that he was wearing

-John May, an occasional car mechanic for the Moran gang

More information: History

I hope, when my time comes,
that I die decently in bed.
I don't want to be murdered beisde
the garbage cans in some Chicago alley.

Bugs Moran

Thursday, 13 February 2020


Covering the Senne, Brussels
Today, The Grandma has travelled to Brussels to visit some old friends.

She is going to spend the weekend in the capital of Belgium enjoying its history, its culture, its people, its cuisine and its freedom.

Brussels has a hidden secret that makes it a different city, its sewer. On a day like today in 1867 started the covering of the Senne/de Zenne, an ambitious civil plan to change the city, its urban aspect and its quality of life.

The Grandma has visited this amazing part of the city during his first day in the city and she has discovered the recent history of this wonderful city, capital of Belgium and heart of the European Union.

The covering of the Senne, in Dutch de Zenne, was the covering and later diverting of the main river of Brussels, and the construction of public buildings and major boulevards in its place. Carried out between 1867 and 1871, it is one of the defining events in the history of Brussels.

More information: Sewer Museum

The Senne/Zenne (French/Dutch) was historically the main waterway of Brussels, but it became more polluted and less navigable as the city grew.

By the second half of the 19th century, it had become a serious health hazard and was filled with pollution, garbage and decaying organic matter. It flooded frequently, inundating the lower town and the working class neighbourhoods which surrounded it.

Numerous proposals were made to remedy this problem, and in 1865, the mayor of Brussels, Jules Anspach, selected a design by architect Léon Suys to cover the river and build a series of grand boulevards and public buildings. The project faced fierce opposition and controversy, mostly due to its cost and the need for expropriation and demolition of working-class neighbourhoods.

The construction was contracted to a British company, but control was returned to the government following an embezzlement scandal. This delayed the project, but it was still completed in 1871. Its completion allowed the construction of the modern buildings and boulevards which are central to downtown Brussels today.
Covering the Senne, Brussels
In the 1930s, plans were made to cover the Senne along its entire course within the greater Brussels area, which had grown significantly since the covering of the 19th century.

By 1955 the course of the Senne was changed to the downtown's peripheral boulevards.

In 1976, the disused tunnels were converted into the North-South Axis of Brussels' underground tram system, the premetro. Actual purification of the waste water from the Brussels-Capital Region was not completed until March 2007, when two treatment stations were built, thus finally cleansing the Senne after centuries of problems.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Brussels was still in many ways a medieval city. The royal quarter in the upper town, inhabited mainly by the nobility and the richer members of the bourgeoisie, was upscale and modern. The rest of the city, however, in particular the lower town, located in the western half of the Pentagon, was densely populated and industrial, characterised by an illogical street layout, back alleys, narrow streets, and numerous dead ends.

The Senne river split into two branches at Anderlecht, penetrating the Pentagon, the former site of the second city walls, in two places. The main and more southern arm entered through the Greater Sluice Gate, near today's Brussels-South railway station.

More information: Brussels Life

The smaller northerly arm entered through the Lesser Sluice Gate, near today's Ninove Gate. The courses of the two traced a meandering path through the city centre, forming several islands, the largest of which was known as Saint Gaugericus Island. The two branches met up on the north side of Saint Gaugericus Island, exiting the Pentagon one block east of Antwerp Gate.

A man-made arm, called the Lesser Senne, in French Petite Senne and in Dutch Kleine Zenne, continued on the borders of the Pentagon in the former moat, outside the sluice gates. It followed the Charleroi Canal before rejoining the main part of the Senne north of the city.

The Grandma visits the sewer, Brussels
The Senne had long since lost its usefulness as a navigable waterway, being replaced by canals, including the Charleroi Canal.

The Senne had always been a river with an inconsistent flow, often overflowing its banks. In times of heavy rainfall, even the sluice gates were unable to regulate the flow of the river which was often swollen by numerous creeks flowing down from higher ground. Making matters worse, within the city, the river's bed was narrowed by encroaching construction due to demographic pressure. The supports of numerous unregulated bridges impeded water flow and caused water levels to rise even further, exacerbated by a riverbed of accumulated waste.

During dry periods, however, much of the Senne's water was diverted for the needs of the populace of the city, as well as to maintain the water level in the Charleroi Canal. This left a flow too feeble to evacuate the filthy water, leaving the sewage, garbage, detritus and industrial waste that had been dumped into the river to accumulate in the stagnant water.

The Senne, which a witness in 1853 described as the most nauseous little river in the world, had become an open-air sewer spreading pestilential odours throughout the city.

More information: Water Imaginaires

Early in the second half of the 19th century, Brussels saw numerous dry periods, floods and a cholera epidemic, caused as much by the river itself as by the poverty and the lack of hygiene and potable water in the lower city. This forced the governments of the Province of Brabant and the City of Brussels to act.

The first studies and propositions to clean up the river date back to 1859, and during the following years, many different commissions of engineers were assigned to examine possible solutions. Dozens of different ideas were submitted, many of which were completely unfeasible. Several of them proposed diverting large amounts of cleaner water from other rivers upstream to dilute the Senne, while greatly improving the drainage system in the city. Other proposals involved diverting the main course of the Senne completely to the Lesser Senne, which would then be enlarged and thus more useful for boat traffic and mills. Others considered any sort of sanitisation impossible, and proposed covering the Senne without greatly changing its course.

Brussels, 19th century
Among these was a proposal to double the size of the underground drainage tunnels, creating space for a subterranean railroad tunnel. The idea was ahead of its time, but would be implemented a century later with the North–South connection.

The municipal council chose the proposal by architect Léon Suys, submitted in 1865, which had the backing of mayor Jules Anspach. The plan involved suppressing the secondary arm of the Senne by closing the Lesser Sluice Gate. The main branch would be channeled into tunnels, to be placed directly beneath a long, straight 30-metre-wide boulevard, stretching from the Greater Sluice Gate to the Augustinian church, now De Brouckère Square, before splitting into two. One branch was to head towards the Brussels North railway station and present day Rogier Square, the other towards Antwerp Gate, thus forming a long, narrow Y shape.

Anspach's backing of Suys' proposal was a calculated decision, as he had radical plans to transform the city. Anspach saw the proposal as an unexpected boon, as it allowed him to accomplish several of his goals at once. It had long been his ambition to transform the impoverished lower city into a centre of business and commerce, suitable for a modern capital, Belgium had declared its independence in 1830, with Brussels its capital. He wanted to attract the middle class, most of whom had left the dingy downtown for the cleaner suburbs, including the Leopold Quarter, now often called the European quarter, and Avenue Louise, causing a large loss in tax revenue for the city.

More information: The Culture Trip

The elimination of the numerous alleys and dead-ends in the lower town in favour of a large, straight, wide, open-air boulevard, linking the two rapidly growing train stations, seemed both a necessity and an opportunity to beautify the city and improve both traffic circulation and hygiene.

The Belgian Parliament had recently passed a law allowing the expropriation of privately owned land by the government when the land was to be used for the greater good. This could be done even if the project was still speculative in nature, and allowed for more land to be taken beyond what was strictly necessary for a project.

The Grandma visits the sewer, Brussels
The city expropriated large swathes of the lower town, counting on reselling the land for a profit, which, after the project was complete, would be on a grandiose modern boulevard in an upper-class neighbourhood.

The selling of land after the completion of the project was seen as a way of financing the project itself. That the poorer residents of the lower town were forced away into other already overcrowded districts or into the surrounding suburbs did not trouble the upper classes very much, as the displaced residents did not pay taxes or have the right to vote.

Even after Suys' proposal was officially adopted, Anspach faced strong opposition to the project. This opposition came first from engineers who felt that the covering was incompatible with Brussels's geology, would accumulate potentially dangerous gases and would not be able to handle enough water to prevent floods. Others opposed to the project complained about the high taxes resulting from its high cost, poor compensation for seized property and the lack of public input into the project. The press accused Anspach of being responsible for demolishing Brussels' old town, and published numerous caricatures mocking him.

More information: Life Inside The Pentagon

A liberal, Anspach feared the weakness and rigidity of the government and therefore gave the work of covering the river to a private British company, the Belgian Public Works Company, the English name was used, which was created for the task. However, partway through construction, it was forced to relinquish control to the city of Brussels after an embezzlement scandal in which a company director allegedly attempted to steal 2.5 million francs from the company. Anspach only barely kept his office in the 1869 by-elections.

Excluding the important sewers built upriver and downriver in the adjacent suburbs, the covered section itself was to be 2.2 kilometres in length. Constructed from bricks, the covering was to consist of two parallel 6 metres wide tunnels, and a set of two lateral drainage pipes, each taking in waste water from its respective side of the street.

The sewers, Brussels
The contract was signed on 15 June 1866, and the expropriation of the first 1,100 houses was completed in a few months. The work began on 13 February 1867.

There were several technical difficulties that delayed the covering, many of which were due to the geology of Brussels, though they were not as bad as some engineers had forecast. The embezzlement scandal also caused a significant delay in construction, largely due to the change in control. The project was completed in 1871, with the municipal council ceremonially opening the reconstructed sluice gates on 30 November.

The series of boulevards created by the project -Hainaut Boulevard, now Maurice Lemonnier Boulevard; Central Boulevard, now Anspach Boulevard; North Boulevard, now Adolphe Max Boulevard; and Senne Boulevard, now Émile Jacqmain Boulevard- were progressively opened to traffic from 1871 to 1873.

The opening of these new routes offered a more efficient way to get into the lower town than the cramped streets of Rue du Midi/Zuidstraat, Rue des Fripiers/Kleerkopersstraat and Rue Neuve and helped revitalise the lower quarters of the town.

More information: The Bulletin

In order to accomplish this revitalisation and attract investment, public buildings were constructed as part of Léon Suys' project, including the Brussels Stock Exchange. The vast Halles Centrales/Centrale Hallen, a good example of metallic architecture, replaced unhygienic open-air markets, though it was torn down in 1958. The monumental fountain, which was to break the monotony of the boulevards at Fontainas Square, was abandoned for budgetary reasons.

The construction of private buildings on the boulevards and surrounding areas took place later. The middle class continued to prefer living in new suburbs rather than the cramped areas of the city centre. The high prices of the land, expected to finance part of the construction costs, and the high rents were not within the means of the lower classes. Life in apartments was no longer desirable for residents of Brussels, who preferred to live in single family homes. The buildings constructed by private citizens had difficulty finding buyers.

Commemorating the covering
To give builders an incentive to create elaborate and appealing facades on their works, an architecture competition was arranged in which twenty buildings built before 1 January 1876 would win prizes. The first prize of 20,000 francs was awarded to Henri Beyaert who designed the Hier ist in den kater en de kat (loosely, House of Cats) on North Boulevard. Nonetheless, it took another 20 years, until 1895, for buildings to solidly line the boulevards.

The former Augustinian church, built at the beginning of the 17th century in the Baroque style, was the only remaining part of a convent destroyed in 1796 by French revolutionaries. After having been used as a Protestant church from 1815 to 1830, it subsequently saw use as a concert hall, a commercial exchange, and a post office. At the centre of De Brouckère Square, the church's facade was intended by Léon Suys to be one of the focal points of the new boulevards.

The work to cover the river, which nearly surrounded the church, preserved the integrity of the building at great trouble and expense, but the church was finally demolished in 1893, its style no longer popular with the people and its presence unsuitable for the area. The church was replaced by a fountain dedicated to the memory of Jules Anspach. Its facade, however, was preserved, being disassembled and moved to serve as the facade for the Church of the Holy Trinity in the municipality of Ixelles.

Although the original covering of the Senne resolved sanitary problems and flooding in Brussels’ old city, this was not the case in peripheral areas.

The Senne was still very polluted, despite work done to the sewers and spillways in the canal. The drainage into the canal was not able to completely stop the floods that regularly affected certain outer areas of the city.

More information: Cities of Making

In 1930, a group was created whose objective was to channel the Senne into tunnels for nearly its entire course through the Brussels metropolitan area. This was done in order to expand the benefits that the covering achieved in the old city. In the centre, the course of the river was to be changed, using a diversion, from the central boulevards to the peripheral boulevards of the small ring. The project, delayed by war and the work being done on the North–South connection, was only finished in 1955.

The disused channels of the central boulevards later facilitated the construction of the north-south line of the premetro, which opened in 1976. The conversion of the existing tunnels to metro tunnels ensured that there was minimal disruption on the surface. Some of the former pipes also served as storm drains. The Anspach Fountain was transferred to the Quartier des Quais/Kaaien.

Actual purification of the waste water from the Brussels-Capital Region was not completed until the 21st century, when two purification stations were built. 

The south station treats refuse water from 360,000 inhabitants, which is about one third of the polluted water, and lies on the border of Anderlecht and Forest

The north station, completed in March 2007, is located near the border of the Brussels-Capital Region, between the Senne and the Charleroi-Willebroek Canal, near Buda Bridge.

A portion of the cost was footed by the Flemish Government, as 7 of the adjacent municipalities lie within the Flemish Region. This station is capable of treating the water of 1,100,000 inhabitants and should finally be capable of fully purifying the Senne, which had long caused much of the pollution of the Scheldt river.

More information: Urban Brussels

There is nothing in machinery,
there is nothing in embankments and railways
and iron bridges and engineering devices
to oblige them to be ugly.
Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.

H. G. Wells