De Tabaksfabriek (the Tobacco factory).
The former D'Heygere tobacco factory has a long history and tradition of re-use of existing buildings.
In 1678, when the town of Menen was integrated into France, Vauban fortified it and provided a military hospital. The latter was built in 1684 and included a priory for the Augustinian Hospitallers (from Lille) who administered it. Although the hospital was severely affected in 1706 by French bombings, during War of the Spanish Succession, and despite all subsequent transformations, part of the original buildings are still visible today in the southeast corner of the courtyard. After the capture of the city by Louis XV in 1744 the royal hospital was abolished, but the sisters continued their work and added a school in the buildings. On January 17, 1797, the Augustinians left Menen - following the decree of the 15th Fructidor of the Year IV, which abolished the congregations. Their properties are confiscated and sold, the hospital transformed into barracks and gendarmerie.
In a sale of national property, on April 20, 1805, the Vander Mersch family acquired them, and, having a monopoly for the manufacture of English-style fabrics, installed a spinning and weaving mill, and also its mansion. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 the Vander Mersch left Menen and rented their factory to a certain Vander Straeten who transformed it into a tobacco factory. Ten years later the former military hospital was sold to François Deny, who again turned it into a weaving mill. On February 17, 1830, the site changed once again owner and destination. This time it will be Jacques Prosper Plaideau-Chaviale (native of Lille) who transforms it into a tobacco factory - function which continued until early 1992.
The then chaotic conglomerate of buildings is reorganized in 1835-1836, in suich a way that production and a trade can efficiently take place. It is at this point that the site receives the ground plan as we live it today. In 1890 to the west of the courtyard the old premises were replaced by a new industrial wing resting in their inside on cast iron columns. The facades along the Ieperstraat date from 1909 (when two adjacent plots were purchased and incorporated) and 1919.
Shortly after the first war, Plaideau-Chaviale joined forces with D'Heygere Frères, the latter buying the buildings and trade in 1932. In June 1991, the company was sold to the Gryson Tobacco Company, which transferred the activities to Houthulst. In February 1992 all industrial activities ceased in Menen.
On December 13, 1991 the site was protected as a historic monument by the Flemish government.
Between 1993 and 1997 (until the buildings became too dangerous to be used for these purposes), all kind of activities, concerts and exhibitions were organized in the ‘Tabaksfabriek’. In 1994 a non-profit association of heritage volunteers tries to convince the municipal administration to acquire the site to set up a museum of industrial history. In May 1995, the city bought land and buildings for the sum of 8,500,000 FB (212500 euro) "to prevent them from being acquired by speculators" (cit.) - but without having a concrete project of re-use. In 1997-1998 students from the St. Lukes School of Architecture in Ghent studied the site and presented reuse and re-use projects. Meanwhile no decision was made during and the buildings deteriorated.
In 2005, the city launched a call for tenders to the private sector for a PPS (Public- Private-Partrnership) by soliciting concrete projects including a financial plan for the reuse of the tobacco factory. On 19 May 2006, an agreement was reached with the Vanhaerents Group, which at the time was already involved in several similar projects in Flanders. After negotiation with the Historic Monuments Department, the project was authorized, work started at the end of March 2009 and was delivered at the end of 2012. The project created a diversified offer of housing with residential entities of different formats (sixteen houses on the ground floor and on two floors: lofts, apartments, duplexes ...) grouped around a semi-public inner courtyard, And - on the side of the street - a some horeca.