Wed 23 December 2022

The streets of Esch

Not just a place to sleep

“Unaffordable rents!” “Housing crisis in the Minett!”

Such cries are not just a recent development; they were already resounding in the media over a hundred years ago. The booming iron and steel industry attracted thousands of people to the south of Luxembourg, but where would they all be housed and, above all, how would they live? Find out more about the adaptations and sometimes incredibly creative solutions dreamed up by the people of the Minett to counter the housing crisis.

The population of some towns in the Minett grew tenfold in the space of a few decades (1870-1930). It was therefore not surprising that a town like Esch-sur-Alzette was not ready to absorb such a huge number of people. The newly arrived workers’ families had particular problems finding somewhere to live and had to come up with creative solutions or put up with oppressive living conditions. Commentators in newspapers argued about how the new industrialised class should live and who was actually responsible for ensuring that urban residents could live a “decent” life. Was it the responsibility of industry, which had after all attracted these people to the region? Or should the state intervene in the housing market? Find out more in the Minett Stories exhibition.


The “Italian quarter”

Even before the first houses were built in the new Brill quarter in Esch-sur-Alzette, residents were referring to it as the “Italian quarter”. But although the name and some of the descriptions by contemporaries seem to be a homogeneous cliché, the population certainly wasn’t. In this story, find out more about how the neighbourhood came into being and the people who lived there in the first half of the last century.

Myths about “Italian quarters” are found not just in Esch-sur-Alzette and Dudelange but in many other towns and cities around the world. However, it is clear from census data that the population of this quarter was far more mixed than historians would have us believe. In an interactive video inviting you to investigate historical sources yourself, you can take a quick look at the diverse population of Rue du Brill, the main street in the Italian quarter in Esch.

An additional essay answers further questions about the origins of this singular quarter in the town of Esch-sur-Alzette and looks for the kernel of truth in the myths that have woven themselves around the neighbourhood. What are the stories and the name based on? These questions can be answered in part by looking at the structures of the houses there and their first residents. What were living conditions like for those living there, and is there any truth to the rumours of violence and prostitution? Check out the video in our Minett Stories exhibition.