Living in Central District
BIANCA WIJNSTEKERS-HANDY | PHOTOGRAPHY:
The Groot Handelsgebouw was still under construction in 1952 when her husband began working in a car garage. A year later, a nineteen-year-old Mrs. Stolk entered the
building, where she went to work for a fruit and vegetable export company. She didn’t meet Mr. Stolk until later, but here is where they both found happiness. In 1962,
they moved into one of the four service homes. She is the last remaining resident.
“What would you like to know?” asks Mrs. Stolk, as she straightens her skirt. “In those days, you had elevatoroperators. These were men from the resistance. They didn’t have social benefits, so this is how they earned some extra pocket money. In early 1970, there was a fire at the corner of Dehnert & Jansen, a wholesaler in home textiles. Due to all the smoke, my husband and I had to spend a few nights in the Rijnhotel, where you now have the Calypso.”
Mrs. Stolk grew up during the war. “I didn’t know any better, you get used to it. I do remember my mother, who had to cry a lot on 14 May.” She has also seen the city flourish.
“The Rotterdam skyline is magnificent, especially along the Maas. But I prefer to stay here.” Her two children grew up here and would run around after office hours, where Mr. Stolk would lay out treasure hunts. Nowadays, her granddaughter skates through the hallways.
“All kinds of things happened here. Audrey Hepburn came to visit here. Then we all lined up on the balconies. And Charles de Gaulle. Once, there was even a fashion show.
And another time, there was some kind of cycling tour that passed under the building. We often went to the Kriterion, the cinema. My cousins always snuck in to see the shows! And then you also had Lutusca nearby. And on Sundays, the priests often came by to give the cars a blessing!”
Just like the building, Mrs. Stolk is an icon. Together with her husband, who unfortunately passed away last month. “I keep myself busy during the day, but it gets so quiet in the evenings. But it’s okay like this. We shared sixty years of love and sorrow, and death is a part of life. But I’m not about to leave this all behind. It is familiar. I’m connected to this building.”
“I have been enjoying living in this neighbourhood for about twelve years now,” tells the cheerful Simone Lie-Kwie. “First on the Hoevestraat, where I rented. I was actually
looking to buy and had already picked out houses to go see. I didn’t have to look very far: when I got to the end of the street and turned the corner, I saw this apartment
on the Harddraverstraat, walked in and was immediately sold on it. The move was a piece of cake: with a few cars we kept driving in circles between the two addresses
until it was done.”
Simone grew up in Hoogvliet. She moved to this area when she went to study in The Hague. “I travel by train daily for my work, so living here is perfect. The neighbourhood
is surprisingly quiet and green, but when I’ve had enough of that, I just duck under the train tracks and into the city. Or I settle into one of the terraces on the Proveniersstraat.
I wouldn’t want it any other way!”
Esther Blankers lives with her partner Lennaert and their blended family of two teenage girls and toddler boy for seven years now in a beautiful neo-Renaissance-style
manor house on the Provenierssingel.
“I lived on the Bergselaan, and Lennaert lived in West. We were looking to buy an old, characteristic building that we could fix up and personalise. With a garden. That
doesn’t leave many neighbourhoods to choose from. When we saw this house, the former practice of a GP, our minds were quickly made up.
Everything is within biking distance, which is wonderful. Going to the market with our son Morris or to my work in the Hofbogen, where my studio, Pantoufle Design, is
now located. I sell handmade accessories, furniture and lighting for interiors and provide interior advice.
My favourite spot in RCD is our very own garden! It is the perfect place to come and relax in the evenings in summer after a long day. For now, we’re doing just fine right here!”
Curious to know more about her studio?
Check out www.pantoufle-design.nl
Until recently, Shirma Rouse lived in the Weena Center, the residential towers behind Unilever. How did she end up here?
“I used to live at the Goudsesingel but wanted a bigger place. After visiting a friend, Sherry Dyanne, on the ninth floor, I thought: This is it! You’re right in the middle of town, but once you close the door behind you, there is total peace and quiet.
The Curacao-born Rouse moved to Rotterdam in 2005. “I am a real city person and I love that it’s such a melting pot. I feel at home here. And RCD is upgrading, you see it in everything: the architecture, the Luchtsingel, Annabel, Biergarten. It’s buzzing!”
Not long ago, she was on stage in the Oude Luxor [theatre]. “Fantastic, isn’t it, that I performed in my old neighbourhood? Now, I live in Delfshaven, but if I could have bought my rental apartment, then I would have definitely stayed there. 100%.”