Mr van Mastrigt pulls out a number of wonderful old views of Rotterdam. He has a fine collection, some of which are on sale in the shop. On the pictures you can see what the Maagd van Holland, the 19th century sculpture on Nieuwemarkt, looked like before the war, surrounding by buildings that have since disappeared. It is this sculpture, which miraculously survived the war, that gave the neighbourhood its name: the Maagd van Holland district. A name that local business people like Van Mastrigt used to call attention to their neighbourhood.
It is this sculpture, which miraculously survived the war, that gave the neighbourhood its name: the Maagd van Holland district.
Mail order firm
Van Mastrigt is happy with his business and the increasing number of pleasant shops in the area. He maintains a Facebook page about the neighbourhood and the shops located here. Because although it’s often busy in the shop, Rotterdammers need reminding about just how fine the neighbourhood has become in recent years. A large team behind the counter assists customers with everything to do with collecting coins and stamps.
Because although it’s often busy in the shop, Rotterdammers need reminding about just how fine the neighbourhood has become in recent years.
The shop first opened in 1957 on Schiedamsedijk. “Everything was gone.” All you could see in the area were a few emergency buildings and barracks. Here his father started a mail order firm, “which was rather new for that time”. People could place an order from anywhere in the country after they had looked though the catalogue sent to them.
Stamp collecting started to increase after the war. Those little bits of paper had been collected ever since 1852, as people didn’t travel so much back then. “Because we were a port, a lot of international post passed through here.” People started to collect the stamps to give them a sense of being connected to faraway places. “A world of adventure the size of a stamp.” Right after the war people didn’t have so many hobbies to choose from. But prosperity increased, as did the amount of money circulating in the stamp trade, reaching a peak in about 1980. At the time of the succession from Queen Juliana to Queen Beatrix, more than a million people bough the specially issued stamp. In 1975 the shop relocated from Zwarte Hondstraat to Botersloot. So he and his father have actually “seen the whole area grow”.
“A world of adventure the size of a stamp.”
The way things were
“Previously,” if you came to the city by train, you saw exactly where the shop was located from the viaduct, because it took quite a while before the city was fully built. The raised tracks of the railway viaduct had a certain charm. And Blaak Station was an icon, one of the few buildings that had withstood the fire. Beneath it there was always a jumble sale, recalls Van Mastrigt. “The way things were.” Later the place became run-down. Degeneration had really set in by the late 1980s. Botersloot was even home to a brothel at one time. The decline really began when KPN moved out of a big building, which then remained vacant for a long time. A small park close-by was strewn with rubbish, and tramps slept there.
The raised tracks of the railway viaduct had a certain charm.
Heart of the neighbourhood
In 2000 the shop, which by then was also trading in coins, relocated to its current premises on the small Nieuwemarkt Square. It’s a fine shop, with an amazingly large basement. In that period the neighbourhood started to improve and visitor numbers rose. “Initially they wanted to demolish all of this.” That didn’t happen luckily. The low building blocks around the square, hemmed in by taller development, are precisely what give the place its distinctive charm. All sides of the neighbourhood have actually been renewed. But it’s important that the heart of the area, the Nieuwemarkt, remains the same in the midst of all this renewal. That redevelopment has attracted more small shops to the Maagd van Holland district. Measures taken by the municipality have also helped, including reducing the number of job placement agencies in the area. Older residents do have some reservations about the changes in the neighbourhood, confirms Van Mastrigt. “They want a quiet life.” But there are not that many old residents any more.
“Initially they wanted to demolish all of this.” That didn’t happen luckily. The low building blocks around the square, hemmed in by taller development, are precisely what give the place its distinctive charm.
- The story of
- Meneer Van Mastrigt