Architecture, Art Nouveau, Confectionary, Corstianus Ligtmans, Dordrecht, Facade, Icing, Jugendstil, Refining, Sugar, West Indisch Huis, WIC
For so long I have wanted to take pictures and write about this beautiful house, but every single time I drove by, there was a car parked in front of it, and for quite a while there even was a fence around it. Apparently, major renovations inside have been carried out. But recently the fence was removed and I finally got my chance to take a car-less shot! Now, what do you say, isn’t she a beauty?
The monument is registered under number RM522369. According to the description the monument was built in 1905 but I am guessing this is not the case. Most houses at Steegoversloot date back to the 17th and 18th century, so it is very likely that this is again an Art Nouveau facade added in 1905 to an existing older building.
The residential shop is two and a half storey high and built with bricks. The facade is a combination of facing-brick, glazed brick and recessed fields of plastered brick. And the result of this combination with brownish bricks and creamy plaster is a house that reminds me of spicy cake with sugar icing!
During my research about the history of the house and it’s owners I discovered that a certain Corstianus Ligtmans owned the place during the time the Art Nouveau facade was added… and you will never guess what Ligtmans’ profession was. He was a confectionery wholesaler! Digging a little deeper in the city archives, I discovered that at various periods in time Ligtmans was also registered as a manufacturer of chocolate and of SUGAR.
And this is a part of my ‘Journey’ that I am particularly fond of: when I am researching my ‘projects’, I surf the www, hop from one subject to the next and before I know it, I’m completely off topic. But I learn so much that way! This time I ended up reading about the history of the sugar business and I discovered a lot about my hometown of which I knew nothing!
Back in the 6th century, Arabs introduced sugar refining techniques in northern Africa and in Spain and Portugal. In the 12th century, returning crusaders introduced the techniques in western Europe. Spain and Portugal went on conquering and colonising land where they could successfully grow their own sugar cane, and from 1550 sugar cultivation took off in South America with ‘the help’ of slaves. The Dutch wanted their share of the sugar businesses in South America so they established the West Indische Compagnie and in 1630 they conquered parts of Brasil from Portugal. In the colonies sugar was processed to conical sugar loaves of 16 kilograms half-refined product. The second stage of the refining process took place at the final destination in Europe.
In 1603 Amsterdam had 3 ‘suyckerbackers’ (sugar refineries). In 1661, they had 60 and in 1771 even 110. Rotterdam was the second sugar-city, and until 1905… Dordrecht was sugar-city nr. 3!
Digging a little deeper, I discovered a lot more about Dordrecht’s sugar-roots. The Dutch West India Company (WIC) had five offices, called chambers: Amsterdam, Zeeland (Middelburg), Maze (Rotterdam, Dordrecht & Delft), Stad en Lande (Groningen) and Noorderkwartier (Hoorn). For holding meetings, and for the storage of the sugar loaves brought in from the West Indies, Dordrecht purchased a building on June 12, 1623. This building was henceforth called ‘Het West-Indisch Huis’. And the history of the building is still visible as a sugarloaf remains over the front door.
Besides this West-Indisch Huis, we also have a Sugarstreet (Suikerstaat) in Dordrecht, and there are now modern apartments in some of the former sugar factories. We also had a Technical School where Sugar Refining was a school subject. The school has been torn down in the 1960s, but proof of the Sugar Refining classes is still there.
When half way the 18th century it was clear that domestic sugar beets could be refined perfectly, the import slowed down. The sugar refining industry however didn’t decline at all, it became even larger. As a result of this growth, the refining industry had to move out of the inner city of Dordrecht, to the rural areas around the city, to Puttershoek, Moerdijk and Zevenbergen for instance.
So much for the history lesson of today and back to my original topic: the beautiful residential shop of a sugar slash confectionary wholesaler at Steegoversloot 22-24.
I’m obviously biased, but as far as I am concerned, Dordrecht is one of the most beautiful cities of The Netherlands, and Art Nouveau buildings like this one are the ‘icing on the cake’.
Beroepen van Vroeger – Suyckerbacker
Canon van Moerdijk – Suiker
De suikerraffinadeur, 1793
Dordrecht, 300 Jaar Suikerstad
Suikerraffinaderijen en Suikerraffinadeurs te Dordrecht
Suiker trouwt met suiker
West Indisch Huis
Renske Ligtmans said:
Nice story. Corstianus Ligtmans was probably my grandfather, although he died young and I never met him. Do you have more details about his life?