A Garage By Any Other Name …

This one works as both an Utrecht Daily Photo and as a Different Donderdag entry. The original photo I took today wasn’t so hot, since it was taken with the camera phone on a very rainy, humid, dark day. Not the kind of weather that inspires an outing with the proper-ish camera. Instead, I found this older photo I’d taken, which shows it all off much nicer.

I pass these buildings on Wittevrouwenstraat on an almost daily basis. I’ve been inspired by them, as well, particularly the buildings with the curving rooftops. Yet there’s something about the Garage that I find so appealing, as well. Perhaps it’s the straightforward labeling, or the wagon-wheel-type window at the top. Regardless, it’s a building that always makes me smile. It’s also been a bit of a puzzlement for the past few months as the ground floor seemed to be turning into a second-hand shop, yet the shop never seems to be open. According to the sign in the window right now, it will be open on Saturday, at least.

As for why I thought of this to include in a Different Donderdag posting, it has to do with the building’s former purpose as an actual garage. One of the little differences is that in a downtown in the US, you probably will find working garages, but here in the Utrecht city center (the binnenstad, aka the original historic city center), you’d be hard-pressed to find a gas station/garage these days. They’re all on the outskirts now, probably for a variety of reasons, including beautification of the old city center.

In trying to find some information about this building, I came across a fantastic blog about the Ridderschapkwartier, which includes this part of town. I really wish my Dutch were better, because it seems like it has a lot of interesting information about this neighborhood. There’s a posting which mentions the Garage (and the buildings next to it) in relation to their former owners, a couple of prominent Dutch insurance families. You can read it here in the first entry (if your Dutch is good).

10 thoughts on “A Garage By Any Other Name …

  1. The last link is indeed very interesting. Short translation: The founders of AMEV (nowadays ASR, on of the largest dutch insurance companies) started here with selling second-hand articles, before they started selling insurance. So the circle is now complete, as it is again turned into a second-hand shop.

  2. Very interesting! You learn so much about your city just by being a little curious and looking up at old buildings like these.
    In the article they explain how the family started with their second-hand dealership: they had a funeral parlour and very often, poor families had to sell their furniture or house contents in order to cover the funeral costs … so the second-hand dealership became a sort of business “on the side”…

  3. Wow! I actually understood more than I realized! 😉 That’s encouraging. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve missed something or lost something in translation. Thanks to you both. I’m always hesitant to pass along information that may be incorrect due to misunderstanding on my part.

    Anyway, it is kind of ironic that the ground floor is once again a second-hand shop. Also kind of ironic for me, since I used to work as an obituary writer, and helped out with typing up estate sale ads when I had free time. I guess I’m drawn to this kind of stuff. 😉

    • I’ve wondered about that, but haven’t found any photos yet from when it was an actual garage. I need to check the Utrecht Archief and see if they have any photos showing the building or at least that section of the street. I do know from other old photos that the street used to be a wider two-way street. Now it’s narrower and just one way.

  4. Pingback: Got It Locked Up « A Flamingo in Utrecht

  5. Sorry not to comment sooner, my Dutch is good, I went to the link and read so much there that I forgot to come back!
    I got so enthusiastic about this … LOVE this sort of local history that I told Himself and together we are looking to approach our own local neighborhood group who coordinate a small neighbourhood magazine issued from time to time and ask people if they have old photos, local stories etc that we can collate and put onto a website.
    See what your post started LOL?!
    We will see what comes of it … it will only work if people come forward with information etc but if you don’t try then you won’t know so… heck why not!
    Thanks for a literally inspirational post!!!

    • That’s a wonderful idea! I’m sure that if they’re already doing the magazine, the interest will be there to provide the photos and stories for a website.

      Even with my limited Dutch, I spent ages looking at that website. It took me forever to get around to actually finishing this post. 😉 I love looking at the old photos and picking out the spots I still recognize. There’s tons of history related to this general part of town; it’s just a matter of tracking it down and understanding it. Which reminds me, I need to continue looking into Napoleon’s links to the neighborhood!

      Good luck with the project!

  6. Look for the new message on 28-01-2011 with the history of the garage on http://ridderschapkwartier.blogspot.com/
    The building is from 1911 and replaced one of the seven historic buildings in the street from 1710. It was one of the first originaly build garages in Utrecht for renting of cars. The cars replaced the formely bicycles shop.

    • Wonderful! Thank you for this information! I’ve added your blog to my RSS reader, so I look forward to learning much more about this part of town. You’ve created a such an interesting and informative resource.

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