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Blog 1 – Postal Museum

In an alley where there is barely enough space for a car to pass me, hidden in a maze of streets, I meet a unique and historical piece of Curacao.

001

Keukenstraat

It takes some time but when I walk into the Keukenstraat, I can hardly image that I’m good here, but halfway through, at the corner of the Kuiperstraat, I discover the building I was looking for. I’ve read that it used to exist of three different houses, but nowadays they form one whole.

One of the skylights, called gables, has a construction date of 1693 and therefore this building is considered to be the oldest building in downtown Punda. This construction date is also reflected in the architecture that dates from an early period. The gables have undergone several style changes over the years. Only the ‘earliest’ buildings had the point-like roofs with the triangular end faces, as can be seen in this building. The part at the Keukenstraat is the only historic part that has been preserved from that time, the other two parts are rebuild after a fire.

002

Postal Museum

On the ground floor the Postal Museum Curacao is now established and when I step in here, looking for some more information, the ringing of a traditional shop bell directly brings me back in time. Out of nowhere a lady appears who kindly welcomes me. The entrance fee is only three guilders and 50 cents and as soon as I have indicated I would like a tour, she enthusiastically starts to tell about the history of Curacao Postal.

By “labels from the old school”, she tells me that our children are used to send a message with the push of one button from New-Zealand to Ghana. “For them it is hard to imagine that, before the arrival of air mail, it takes three months for a letter to reach the Netherlands”. She proudly shows me the model plane of the first post plane: SNIP, which was stationed by KLM for the first time in Curacao in 1934. “From that moment, it was suddenly possible to make contact in three days with someone in Europe!”.

003

Philately

When we enter the first exhibition room I ask whether she can tell me something about the building in which we find ourselves. It appears to be a question she never heard before and it takes her a bit off guard.

She isn’t surprised anymore when a passionate philatelist comes in with a picture on his iPad, looking for that missing stamp for his collection. She is also used to grandchildren, who are looking for a pre-war postcard for the 85th anniversary of their grandfather. Or lovers, who after the tour, sit there for half an hour on the ground to admire their favorite stamp series. But my interest in the “walls” around all the letter secrets appears to be a lot less regular.

But within moments she regains her role and she shows me – out of a cupboard next to the door leading to the first room – a cardboard panel. This describes the history of this particular building in a nutshell.

004

History

As I read it, the first owner was a certain Jan Scholten. He would have lived in the house at the Keukenstraat in 1715. Based on his personal (tax) assessments, which were found, it appears that he was not a wealthy man. Living in the city was not only for wealthy people. The subsequent information dates back more than a century later. In 1831, the building was sold to Philip Leyba by Regina Hernandez for 3.466 guilders. Imagine, thirty-five hundred guilders for a house in the city, those were times! In 1881, the sons of Leyba sold the house to Charles Jutting, who at the time already owned two adjacent buildings at the Kuiperstraat and as of that moment the three buildings became one.

We were startled by the sound of stumbling above our heads. She looks at me reassuringly: “Some offices are located on the first floor and the original wooden ceiling makes it a bit noisy”, she explains. On the first floor above the Postal Museum, DMO is situated. The Downtown Management Organization is involved in all aspects regarding developments of the city. In collaboration with retailers, real estate owners and the government, DMO focuses on for example aspects as safety and atmosphere to revive Punda. Life, work & play are the keywords that need to be rediscovered in the center of our city.

005

Acquaintance

A tribute to the history of the pre-internet communication and organization that cares for the development and preservation of the center, located together in the oldest building in the city. The start is made; the Downtown-Curacao adventure has begun. Are you with me?

 

With thanks to Manon Hoefman

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