Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao

Curacao, a former colony of and now a country within the Netherlands, is a small island lying in the southern Caribbean just off the coast of Venezuela. Although everyone I encountered spoke Spanish or English, or both, the official languages are Dutch and Papiamentu, a creole of African languages with Spanish or Portuguese, plus Dutch and others.

 

Willemstad

Willemstad

 

The Dutch occupied the island in the mid-seventeenth century, the Spanish having found it of no value other than a source of native population to relocate and enslave. The Dutch West Indian Company however saw the value of a natural harbour and founded Willemstad at its entrance. The port became a centre of the slave trade and the resulting affluence led to the historic urban fabric that UNESCO list.

 

Willemstad

Willemstad

 

 

The buildings are in a kind of crossover Dutch cum Spanish Caribbean style with decorative gables, bright colours, dorrmer-windowed pantiled roofs, often with a steeper central section and shallower outshoots towards the eaves.

 

Willemstad

Willemstad

 

Many in the centre are in such good condition that it is hard to know if they are original or not. However, not far away there are decaying or derelict buildings that display the same characteristics.

Willemstad - a container ship comes in past the floating bridge

Willemstad - a container ship comes in past the floating bridge

The two sides of the town are linked across the harbour entrance by a floating bridge, supplemented by free ferries for when it has been hinged sideways to let a ship through. Road traffic has to go the long way round on a high modern bridge further inland. This is a cruise ship stop (which could explain why there are so many casinos in town perhaps) and they can be seen towering over the houses outside the harbour.

Willemstad - road bridge over the harbour

Willemstad - road bridge over the harbour

The town contains the ‘oldest surviving synagogue building in the western hemisphere’ (which I presume rules out Israel), first built at the end of the seventeenth century and rebuilt forty years later.

Willemstad - synagogue

Willemstad - synagogue

Unfortunately I cannot build one of the wonderful gabled buildings with my small Lego kit so I went for a house based on this and other similar but smaller houses around town:

Willemstad

Willemstad

My model is shorter, mostly to retain the right overall proportions of the building.

Lego Willemstad

Lego Willemstad

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4 Responses to Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao

  1. drsnyc says:

    so much to enjoy in this post Jackie (not least the gorgeous blue skies – we are very damp and dull in London today) The images give an impression that it looks a bit like a film set – bordering on the historo-fantastical (not a word I know but hope it conveys what I mean). Also tinged with homesickness – your choice for a lego model is exactly like houses in Cape Town (I think my sister owns one that is fairly similar, but it has a small covered verandah out the front).

    • Jax says:

      It does indeed look a but unreal, which is why I was pleased to find some derelict buildings to prove they really did build them like that! If I get my visa sorted out I should be moving on to Suriname, another former Dutch colony, at the weekend: wonder if they have similar buildings there…

  2. drsnyc says:

    have you ever considered making lego models of people’s homes as a business idea? Not entirely sure it would work – but I’d commission one of Carla’s home if you are interested (and if I could afford it!)

    • Jax says:

      Now there’s an interesting idea! I’d have to move to a slightly bigger scale to cover more complex designs but it could still be quite small. I would be delighted to have a go at building you a model when I get back, for the cost of the parts.

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