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From the ‘rubble’ to the chrome

On the site now occupied by the Market Hall, the sons of Jan van Wingerden used to dig for treasure. The open tracts of city were called ‘the rubble’.

From the ‘rubble’ to the chrome

The view from the home of Mr van Wingerden on Hoogstraat takes in much of the city. To the front you see the Zijl, bordering Steigersgracht and the new Market Hall; to the rear is Hoogstraat. He isn’t crazy about that Market Hall, though, as the new building blocks much of his view of the River Maas.

Riches in the ‘rubble’

The contrast between the big building and the barrenness that once dominated the city is huge, and Van Wingerden has seen the city change constantly. On the site of the today’s Market Hall, his sons once dug in the ‘rubble’, as the bomb damage in the city centre was called. There they came across pipe-bowls, bones, tiles, shells and other treasures. It now turns out that the children were digging on the oldest site in the city, as can be seen in the Market Hall where archaeological finds are displayed. Pretty amazing. When a tree ‘in the rubble’ opposite the house on Hang was felled, his oldest son got extremely angry. The city, with its undeveloped sites and random tracts of wilderness, was a true playground to him.

On the site of the today’s Market Hall, his sons once dug in the ‘rubble’, as the bomb damage in the city centre was called. There they came across pipe-bowls, bones, tiles, shells and other treasures.

Housing shortage

He’s lived in this house above Hoogstraat for at least 45 years, though it wasn’t easy to acquire a place to live in the city in the post-war period. The shortage of housing was extreme. “Everybody was busy looking for homes and suchlike.” Luckily, he had a good network, and was able to get this home through a client of his. He and his wife moved in at a time when the city centre was far from finished. The cube dwellings and other buildings had not yet been built, so you could look across the whole city. Mrs van Wingerden had trouble getting accustomed to the city centre. The family first lived in leafy Kralingen, where they had a warm network and neighbours regularly took the children to the park. Things weren’t the same in the city centre.

Construction material was scarce after the war. That’s why windows larger than a square metre couldn’t be built, so dwellings had small windows.

Construction material was scarce after the war. That’s why windows larger than a square metre couldn’t be built, so dwellings had small windows. Over the years they were all replaced by big windows that enlarged the view of the city. “Totally in line with the post-war reconstruction principle of light, air and space,” he says proudly.

Flowers on the street

Van Wingerden remembers the war clearly. He lived on Noordereiland, where he was born. The island was precariously situated between enemy and friendly fire, so he had to flee. Soldiers were buried in the street. “That’s where I first saw what war was.” The abandoned florists was emptied and vases containing the remains of flowers where placed along the street. He’ll never forget it. Nor will he forget the stench of the fire, with big black clouds of smoke hanging ominously above the city.

He lived on Noordereiland, where he was born. The island was precariously situated between enemy and friendly fire.

Immediately after the war he had to attend another school in the centre. “My time here started then.” Every day his walk to school took him straight through the ‘rubble’; adventures, material to play with, he had a fantastic time with it all. The damage may have been cleared away, but there were still plenty of holes left and the remnants of gardens that were once hidden behind homes. Really big pits in the ground could be found beside Blaak and the viaduct, providing lots of places for skating in winter and football in summer. A typical Wednesday afternoon routine was: home quickly, grab a sandwich, straight back to play football. “It was fantastic, and something never to forget.” One winter during the post-war reconstruction period, a mains pipe near Vierleeuwenbrug burst, but nobody complained. The water that spouted from the leak froze in fanciful forms, ice sculptures in no man’s land.

Really big pits in the ground could be found beside Blaak and the viaduct, providing lots of places for skating in winter and football in summer.

Chrome and Formica

His parents had a furniture shop on Goudsesingel before the war, but it didn’t survive the bombing. The new shop was located on Van der Takstraat. At home he still keeps the old cashbooks from just after the war, which make clear just how tough times really were. His father bought stock, everything to do with home furnishing, from the Venduhuis auction house. There was also a huge demand for second-hand items. Van Wingerden later joined his father in the shop. As prosperity in the city increased, customers started to find their way to the furniture shop more easily. In addition to private customers, businesses and even ships were among his clients. Each season everything had to be upholstered again. “We worked hard and the money had to be spent.” The stock available quickly improved. “Machines appeared that could produce carpet in rolls four metres wide.” Other items of furniture in different styles became popular: pieces made of modern materials like chrome and Formica. Cane too, was suddenly popular. Although it wasn’t his favourite, it sold well.

“We worked hard and the money had to be spent.”

Not too congested

Hoogstraat today looks very different to Hoogstraat back then. Neighbourhoods always change, Van Wingerden remarks, and no harm in that. Cars still drove along Hoogstraat just after he moved here. Back then Hoogstraat was still quite a smart street, and many shopkeepers lived above their own shop. It’s not that cosy any more, however. The Meent, “that’s been done up no end”. After the bombardment “they started to separate the streets from one another,” he says of the post-war period. “Not too high, for you wanted light and air in the city.” Now they want to increase density again in the city, like beside here, where developers plan to build tall and wide. He finds that old-fashioned. “It’s getting congested!”

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