The early 20th century inter-modal transport hub on the north side of Brussels takes its name from the family of Frans de Tassis who became Master of the Post in the Holy Roman Empire in 1501, and whose family, the counts Tour et Taxis, managed the postal services in the Habsburg Empire and other European states in the centuries that followed. They transferred their headquarters from Brussels to Frankfurt-am-Main in 1724. Their business declined during the Napoleonic Wars and was finally wound up in 1867.
In 1897 agreement was reached for the development of a transport centre on land that had once belonged to the Tour et Taxis family, alongside the Willebroek Canal, and bounded by Avenue du Port and Rue Picard, where inland waterways, railways and road services would interconnect, and where customs and warehousing services would be provided. The railway facilities were completed by 1907, but the Gare Maritime opened only in 1910, and some facilities were not completed until after the First World War. Some of the largest buildings on the 30 ha site were the warehouses in a railway freight complex, designed by Ernest Van Humbeek, that included three huge freight-handling sheds with cast-iron roofs. The buildings of the Gare Maritime were designed by C Bosmans and H Van der Veld. Some 3,000 people were employed within the complex in the 1960s, but the level of activity subsequently declined, and the Belgian postal service was the last user when it moved away in 1987.
The re-use of the complex was and is a subject of debate in Brussels, but the Projet Tour et Taxis was established in 2001, and large parts are now occupied by shops, restaurants and exhibition galleries. Belgium lacks a national railway museum and there is considerable pressure to establish one at Tour et Taxis.