As I learn about Utrecht’s history, it’s like a constant game of connect the dots or six degrees of separation. There are frequent light-bulb moments when I can make connections between various buildings and locations around the city. Yesterday, as I was reading up on De Zeven Steegjes, I realized that there was a connection to another building I’d meant to research after photographing it recently.
During our visit to the kerstmarkt (Christmas market) that runs along the Oudegracht, we’d gone down to the wharf level so I could take some photos. As I was looking around, I realized one of the buildings on the opposite side of the canal was a (former) brewery called De Boog. There was a gate leading down to the wharf level with Boog written above it, as well, so I figured the bulk of the buildings that you can see in the photo above were a part of the brewery at some point. However, once home, I forgot to look further into the topic and it slipped my mind until yesterday when I saw the brewery mentioned in relation to De Zeven Steegjes.
De Boog brewery began production sometime around 1584 and remained in business until 1897, when industrial competition became too great. The Oudegracht was a common site for breweries at the time, because the canal waters themselves could be used in the brewing process, and the canal also served as a convenient way to bring in the materials and ship out the finished product. In an interesting bit of trivia, the brewery was damaged in the same storm in 1674 that caused the destruction of the cathedral’s nave. The nave was never rebuilt, but obviously the brewery was.
The brewery was originally owned by the Van Wyckersloot family, but eventually came into the ownership of Willem de Kock in the 1700s. Upon his death in 1761, he bequeathed almost all of his property, including the brewery, to the Roman Catholic church, specifically to benefit the poor and the poor houses. The brewery remained in operation and the profits went toward the construction of housing for the poor, including the building of the Zeven Steegjes! As a result, some of the names of the seven streets bear names that relate to the brewery and Willem de Kock: Boogstraat, Kockstraat, Brouwerstraat (Brewer Street) and Moutstraat (Malt Street). I can’t help but think that another of the streets, Suikerstraat (Sugar Street), might also bear some relation to the brewery and the brewing process.
It was nice to have this bit of research fall in my lap yesterday. It’s like a two-for-one deal in knowledge! I recommend taking a look at the photos and paintings included on the brewery’s Wikipedia page, particularly the painting of the buildings in the year they closed. It’s always interesting to see how little some sites have changed.