Voorstraat

This is the third installment in a series of colorized “hi-res” glass negatives from the town of Zwolle, the Netherlands. To be clear, I still believe that these are all the work of a single photographer, and very likely taken on the same day. Circumstantial evidence that I laid out in previous posts leads me to believe these pictures were taken sometime in the spring of 1901, or 1902. The sequence of images allows for tracing the path that this unknown photographer took to capture fairly commonplace images of Zwolle, to be used as source material for postcards later on. Based on that path, this would have been the second photograph.

An educational poster that many Dutch students will remember from history class, supposedly depicting the siege of the castle of Voorst.

The Voorstraat is one of the oldest streets in Zwolle. It is named after the Lords of Voorst, a clan of robber barons who terrorized the region in the late Middle Ages, and who are thought to have been responsible for the massive fire that virtually destroyed the city in 1324. Four decades later, the city of Zwolle, with the help of the neighboring towns of Deventer and Kampen, laid siege to the estate, ultimately destroying the Voorst manor and setting the stage for the region’s Golden Age. It’s a great story, and you can read more about it here (in Dutch.)

The staff of the “Du Commerce” koffiehuis, including the owner H.A. Van Doorn; a messenger boy passing by; and the neighbors from the grocery store next door.

In the present day, the street is mostly known for its many bars and clubs, and looking at this image, it’s clear that the hospitality business has long had a presence here, from koffiehuis “Du Commerce” in the front, to the hotel halfway down the block. This was no doubt a side effect of the butter market that took place here daily until 1884. Up until 1913, the Voorstraat was the site an annual goose market every November as well. Nowadays the entire left side of the street is made up of drinking establishments. It’s safe to say that nearly everyone who grew up in the region has gone out in this street at some point in their life.

On the right hand side of the street are the offices and printing facilities of the local newspaper, the Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche Courant, established by the Tijl family in 1790. The name of the business (“Stoomboek- en steendrukkerij van de Erven J.J. Tijl”) is prominently emblazoned across the building’s facade. A striking detail in this image, and one that had me stumped for a while, is what I now believe to be a cage used to dispatch and receive messenger pigeons. Even though telegraph and telephones existed in 1901, the use of of pigeons was fairly widespread in the newspaper industry until at least the end of World War 1. The Reuters press agency, for example, at some point had hundreds of birds facilitating the swift exchange of messages between its offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Rising above the far end of the street is one of a number of windmills that dominated the western skyline of Zwolle until the 1920s. This one, the Juffertjeswalmolen or De Molen van Kok, was built as a grain mill on top of one the elevated defense bulwarks that surround the city to this day. It was constructed in 1825, and partially burnt down (under suspicious circumstances) in 1918. The octagonal foundation was finally removed in the 1990s. The chimney next to it belongs to the local beer brewery Het Schaap, owned by the influential Schaepman family.

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