- Buls, Charles
- (1837-1914)Charles Buls, the eighth burgomaster of Brussels, was born in the city on 13 October 1837. Due to poor health he spent his early years with relatives in Limburg, returning to study at the Athenée (1849-1855), where he did not complete his courses preferring to take up sculpting instead. Time spent in Italy convinced him to make good his educational gaps and he read philosophy. Frequenting Liberal Party and Free Masonry circles, he helped found the Ligue de l'Enseignement in 1864 to promote secular public schooling. His position as secretary of the organization brought him to the attention of Liberal Party leaders and he was elected on the party's list in the communal elections of 1877. His efforts on the council to promote bilingual training in the schools met with opposition from French-language teachers and officials.On 17 December 1881, Buls succeeded Félix Vanderstraeten as burgomaster. His administration was marked by continuing efforts to promote secular education, careful fiscal management that excluded the need to raise taxes, and firm measures against civil disturbances, notably the violent street demonstration occasioned by rising labor unrest that began in 1886 and culminated in the general strike of April 1893. A moderate progressive, he remained a committed anticlerical and economic liberal who eschewed revolutionary approaches in favor of pragmatic solutions to social ills.Recognizing the Flemish roots of the city, Buls brought bilingual street signs to Brussels and demanded that officials who conducted business with the public speak both French and Dutch, although he himself spoke the latter with difficulty. An ardent advocate of preservation, Buls wrote tracts, including Esthétique des Villes (1893), arguing the need to maintain and restore the city's architectural heritage. He reached agreements with owners of guild houses on the Grand' Place for restoration of buildings, including notably L'Étoile.Buls remained implacably opposed to plans supported by King Leopold II calling for wholesale demolition of time-honored districts in the Mont des Arts area. The conflict led to his resignation on 16 December 1899. He remained active, serving as chairman of the Comité d'Études du Vieux Bruxelles and the Ligue de l'Enseignement. Buls traveled the world before his death on 1 July 1914. The street running behind L'Étoile is named for him.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.