Time Travel: Voetiusstraat

domplein1900voetius

I thought I’d try to get at least one last Time Travel post in, even though I really should be writing for work, or packing, or doing dishes. I don’t even have a really good comparison photo, but it’s close enough.

What you see in the older photo is a view of a couple around 1900 walking along the north side of the cathedral, along what is Voetiusstraat. It’s a strange view if you’re used to the street now, because while the buildings on the right hand side of the photo remain (the one with the writing is now the delicious Carla’s Condoterie), the left has changed dramatically. I think it was around 1910 that the street was widened and the buildings on the left were constructed, particularly Voetiusstraat 2-4, which is a fairly impressive building done in the neo-Renaissance style. It was used as a public reading hall/library.

For the record, the street gets its name from Gisbertus Voetius, a 17th century professor of theology, whose house once stood there.

What is interesting about this section of street where Domstraat intersects with Voetiusstraat and the cathedral is the new herringbone brickwork that has gone down. It’s all more even and in an earthier, tawnier color. It really does look quite nice. I wish I knew how far it’s going to spread.

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In this slightly different view, you can’t see the buildings as clearly, but you can see the step into the cathedral that is visible in the old photo. The street levels do change a bit over the years, but the lamps remain much the same!
North Side

 

black and white photo via Het Utrechts Archief

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Time Travel: Achter de Dom

1900 postal workers achter de dom utrecht post office(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)

This photo dates back to 1900 and shows a group of postal workers on the street behind the cathedral called Achter de Dom (achter means behind and de Dom refers to the cathedral). To the right of them is the entrance to the pandhof, the enclosed garden area next to cathedral. To the left was the post office.

Achter de Dom is one of my favorite streets, because it’s filled with historic buildings and just looks so picturesque and charming. Coming to the street from the opposite direction — from the Nieuwegracht — it’s particularly stunning as you see the apse of the cathedral towering over the street. No matter the angle from which you look at it, it’s a winner.
Achter de DomI couldn’t remember the exact angle of the original photo, so when I made this version on Sunday, I didn’t get it quite right, but close enough. Not much has changed, obviously. The men in the photo would have been standing roughly where the woman in the white top on the right is.
Achter de Dom
This is the same photo, but from a wider angle, so you can see the cathedral and its buttresses around the apse on the right. The large greyish building on the center left of the photo is the former post office. It was still in use for another 24 years after the 1900 photo was taken. Then, it was replaced by the massive and stunning building at Neude. Sadly, the post office at Neude closed in 2011 and its final use remains in limbo. In fact, it was the very last post office in the Netherlands. Everything now is privatized. Strange to think that the mail service has changed more than this street in the past 115 years, though mail delivery by bike is still a thing. Of course.

Castellum Lights

A Flamingo in Utrecht
The Domplein — the square in the heart of the city where you will find the Domtoren and the cathedral — has a long history. The square was originally the site of the Castellum Trajectum, the Roman fortress established nearly 2000 years ago to protect the northern border of the Roman Empire. The sign in the picture above marks where one of the entrance gates to the fortress was to be found.

In fact, they have found the foundations for the old fortress and you can see some visual depictions of what the fortress would have looked like through various apps now available. I think you also get to learn and see a bit more on the DomUnder tour (which I haven’t had a chance to take yet).

Still, you can get a sense of the size of the fortress due to some installations you’ll see in areas around the Domplein. The size starts to sink in when you realize it encompased the whole square and then some. The markers in the ground are bronze-ish metal pieces flush to the ground, with lines drawn in depicting various Roman Empire borders. They’re easy to miss, and even easier to puzzle over if you don’t know the meaning. It took me a few years to finally figure it out.
Hadrian's Wall
However, in the evening, they at least become a bit harder to miss. As part of the Trajectum Lumen displays, they light up and emit a watery mist every 15 minutes or so. The marker on Domstraat is pretty impressive, the way it lights up along one of the buildings and has the cathedral behind it.
Roman Walls [Day 126/365]
There’s another by the Academiegebouw, which I managed to capture once, years ago.
Roman Fortress
More recently, I finally caught the one on Servetstraat, in front of the Domtoren. It’s a cosy little street with a nice mix of shops and restaurants, all in the towering shadow of the Domtoren. Standing along any of the old fortress borders, it’s impossible not to look around and think of all the history this one small section of Utrecht has seen and experienced. And now we all become a little part of that long history.
Castellum Trajectum

Time Travel: Kromme Nieuwegracht 1900 | 2013

kromme nieuwegracht HUA 1900(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)

This canal is the Kromme Nieuwegracht and as the name suggests, it’s essentially the Nieuwegracht canal after it takes a curve in front of the Paushuis (Pope’s House), which is part of the building on the left. In fact, this picture from 1900 is taken from the bridge over the canal that leads into the Paushuis.

While you may think that the Pope’s House wouldn’t change much, it actually has changed quite a bit since it was originally built in the 1500s. The actual house was much smaller than the full property that is there today. Plus, through the years, it has had a variety of additions and rebuilds of those additions. It’s more of a complex now than just one building. As you can see, there were rows of window shutters in the old photo, but when you look at the new photo (well, taken in 2013), those are all gone.
kromme nieuwegracht paushuisAlthough the buildings on the left may have changed, the buildings on the right look remarkably similar, other than perhaps some cleaning and some new shiny gold paint on that balcony. Even the stairs down to the canal are in roughly the same spot. The biggest difference is the addition of three trees in the intervening 100+ years. Well, that and the bicycles and cars replacing the people.

Time Travel: Pieterskerkhof and the Domtoren

domtoren seen from pieterskerkhof 1925 HUA creditThe browser tab cleanup continues …
This image (photo via Het Utrechts Archief) of Pieterskerkhof, with the Domtoren in the background, is from 1925. This is a stretch that really hasn’t changed much at all. That’s Pieterskerk (St. Peter’s Church), the brick building on the far left and the only thing that has changed slightly is the entrance, which seems to have grown a story and added a window. (It’s the bit right next to the white/grey building.)

The lamps have changed, there are a lot more bicycles, and a few trees have changed places, but otherwise, it’s instantly recognizable. Trust me, even the buildings in the background are the same.

I used to joke in the US about how certain streets were what I called “church row”, with seemingly a church on every street corner. This takes the cake, though. As I said, that’s a church there on the left and then not much further on, you can see the top of the cathedral and the Domtoren. I’m lousy at distances, but according to Google maps, it’s a walking distance of 230 meters/250 yards. They say it’s a three minute walk, but that seems awfully slow to me. Of course, if you stop to admire the local cats and the beautiful buildings, it will take a lot longer than three minutes.

Always the DomPieterskerkhof is definitely worth a visit if you’re visiting Utrecht or newly arrived. It’s a surprising cul de sac with a fascinating mix of old and new buildings and some great rooftop views. And when the sun filters through the trees, the charm level goes through the roof.
Summer Light

Time Travel: Janskerkhof and Bikes

janskerkhofhua(photo via Het Utrechts Archief)
This photo from 1959 shows the Janskerkhof during one of the weekly Saturday flower markets. That aspect hasn’t changed at all and it’s a stunningly beautiful spot to hold a flower market. In the shadow of the church and the trees throughout the square, the flowers in the market are just gilding on this historic space.

I love the hustle and bustle and bursts of color that fill the space on Saturdays, but I also love the serenity of the area on a quiet Sunday morning, when the only remains of the market are a few fallen flower petals and a new bouquet at the feet of the Anne Frank statue in front of the church. My present-day photos were taken on one of these quiet Sunday mornings. To be honest, I was interested in the row of bikes and the scooter that day. I only saw the old photo of the spot recently and knew I already had a comparison photo.
Janskerkof Fietsen
The area today looks much as it does in that photo from 1959, though they’ve gotten rid of most car parking in the square in recent years, though you will see the odd scooter. Even the lamp and bicycles look much the same, though the bikes now face the other direction to allow for a separated bicycle lane. Today, you’re just as likely to see people walking away with the same bouquets of flowers as cycling away, with flowers in hand, under the arm, or in bags or baskets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone leaving the market with a small potted tree strapped upright onto the back of their bicycle.
Janskerkof Fietsen
Janskerkof Fietsen

Sound the Alarm

BrandbelThe other week, I wrote about a former fire house that dates back to the 1860s. With buildings so closely packed together, it was vital to have a number of these fire stations spread strategically throughout the city. But when your fire truck relies on literal horse power and there are no mobiles that allow anyone to quickly dial 112 (the emergency number) if they spot suspicious smoke, an effective alarm system is vital.

Obviously, in the days before telephones, it was important to have a way of alerting people that there’s a fire. As well as warning neighbours who may be at risk, the firefighters needed to be alerted, as well. One way that was done was through the use of a brandbel (fire bell). Just like the fire stations, they were set up a various locations throughout the city. The bells, some of which came from demolished 17th century cloisters, stood atop wood or stone posts. In case of fire, ring bell.

The firefighters would hear the bell (or be alerted to it) and then head out to the fire. I assume that as someone rang the bell, someone else might run over to the station to alert the firefighters as to the specific location. The bell would at least give them time to get their gear ready while someone else sprinted over.

On 3 March 1921, a telephone alarm system was put in place and by 1935, the last of the fire alarm bells were gone from the regular city landscape. The one in my photo is down by the southern end of the Nieuwegracht and is a replica of one that would have served the Schalkwijkstraat fire station I mentioned in my previous post. It’s nice to have these little reminders of days gone by, but it certainly makes me thankful for modern improvements!

Time Travel: Janskerkhof te Utrecht

JanskerkhofAs you wander through the Utrecht binnenstad, if you look closely, you’ll probably notice a number of painted-tile images throughout the city. All are hanging on walls in public places, although some are easier to spot than others. It is worth keeping an eye out for them, as they are something like the city’s own version of my Time Travel posts. Each tile image is taken from old paintings of the city, depicting various important/well-known spots around town. Sometimes, there’s little change; other times, it is completely different. Either way, it’s fun to stand in the spot and compare then and now.

The tile images are an ongoing project, from what I can tell. One of the latest ones to go up is a depiction of Janskerkhof, as painted by Isaac Ouwater in 1779. The original painting belongs to the Centraal Museum, but if you go around the back (northern side) of Janskerk, you’ll find the tile version on display.Janskerkhof
On Saturdays, it can get lost amid the bloemenmarkt, but all of the flowers for sale also add to the charm of the setting and the flower market wouldn’t seem out of place in the painting. The painting shows a handful of people going about their daily lives and it really doesn’t look much different today.JanskerkhofA few things have changed since the painting, including the addition of the Willibrordkerk (the spire in the background of my photos) and many more trees. As a result, it’s hard to get a clear, full shot of the area, but behind the trees and the flower trucks, it really does look quite similar. Trust me when I say that the Janskerk is there on the left behind the trees, looking much the same as it does in the painting.JanskerkhofJanskerkhofHere’s a winter view of the square from much the same spot.Winter Sunlight
Here’s a view of the Janskerk itself: JanskerkhofAnd here is the building on the right of the painting. The building itself has changed, but the grand entrance is still recognizable.
Open Day [day 328/365]

Time Travel: Biltstraat

Biltstraat 1947 (Het Utrechts Archief)It seems appropriate that I came across this photo of Biltstraat recently, as this is one of the only streets I see these days. The wine bar and my freelance writing are keeping me very busy. This photo is relatively recent, dating back to 1947. In some ways the street has changed little. Amusingly, even the awning looks to be the same style on the second-from-the-left building. The fifth building with the bay window looks nearly identical, as does the larger ninth building and everything in between.

The street used to be lined with trees, but those were felled during the war, I believe, but they’re gradually being reintroduced, which makes taking comparison pictures a bit more difficult. The biggest difference, perhaps, are the defined bike paths now on each side of the street. They’re the reddish strip seen in the current photo. Amazingly, it looks like I managed to find almost the exact same spot to snap this photo as the original. Mine just includes a few more rooftops, a bit of sunny, blue sky, and the other side of the street.Biltstraat
To show just how little the street has changed in almost 70 years, here’s a photo I took from the front door of our wine bar, Vino Veritas, earlier this week. In black and white, just a few steps up from where the original photo was taken (directly across from the third/fourth buildings), everything looks surprisingly similar. The grand old dame is holding up well! Biltstraat
First photo via Het Utrechts Archief

Time Travel: Het Maliehuis

maliehuisZo Was Utrecht, a fantastic source for old images of Utrecht, recently Tweeted this old advertising poster that dates back to 1897. It’s for the Utrechtsche Levensverzekeringsmaatschappij (Utrecht Life Insurance Company/Society), which was housed at the time in the Maliehuis located at Maliesingel 28.

The original Maliehuis (huis=house) was built in 1637 and was used by the administrator of the Maliebaan. The Maliebaan, a long, tree-lined avenue, was originally used to play the game known as malie, which was somewhat like croquet or what eventually became golf. People could rent the game equipment from the administrator at the Maliehuis. This went on through the 18th century.

Then, in the 19th century, the building was significantly enlarged and turned into a house. Eventually it then became office space, for businesses such as the aforementioned life insurance company, and nowadays, I think it’s used as an exhibition space.

It’s a nice house from the outside, with clean, simple, classical lines. There’s also a tile depiction of the house, showing the canal that runs in front of it. That section of the canal is called the Maliesingel, but it is also part of the canal that rings the old city center. The Maliehuis is just outside the binnenstad (city center). My photos are a few years old, and I think the outside has been cleaned up since then. Still, you’ll see just how much the building still looks as it did in the illustration from the late 1800s. To the right is the Maliebaan, where the game was originally played. In the 1600s, it was a student area where they played malie and generally hung out together. It’s since changed to an important and wealthy area. Het MaliehuisHet MaliehuisHet MaliehuisHet Maliehuis