Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Zoet Water then and now - replicating old photographs

F and I made two excursions yesterday and today to the clutch of restaurants around the Zoete Waters near where we live, to try and replicate the settings of various old photographs and postcards. The weather was not with us - the sun was mostly in the wrong place yesterday, and it was actually snowing lightly this morning - but I am fairly pleased with the results.

This is the Brasserie St-Jean, at the corner of the crossroads by the lake, a favourite resting spot for an outing from Leuven for many years.
It is undergoing renovation at the moment, but the date of construction - 1908 - is still clearly visible. (This one taken by F with his 3DS.)

St Jean side (old)
The side view of the Brasserie St-Jean give a good sense of the size.
St Jean side (new)
And a hundred years on, cars are still being parked in the same place.

Spaans Dak 1 (old) Spaans Dak 2 (old)
Across the pond is this peculiar building, dating from the sixteenth century, one of the oldest buildings in the village (though our church tower was built in the eleventh century). In the old days it was a forest warden's house. The first of these cards is in French only, the second in French and Dutch, so I make the sweeping assumption that the first is older (the message on it is in French). The site had been the home of the Lords of Steenberghen who were the local feudal rulers, but by the sixteenth century they had sold off most of their patrimony to the Oranje-Nassaus who still rule our northern neighbours.
Spaans Dak 1 (new) Spaans Dak 2 (new)
It's now a medium posh restaurant, Het Spaans Dak (the Spanish Roof). I was interested that the colours of the trees in these two photographs taken at the same time - the first from F's 3DS, the second from my iPad - are so very different.

Cafe (old)
I was intrigued by this building, which didn't quite match any of those visible at the crossroads, but I thought must most likely have been rebuilt into In De Molen, opposite the Brasserie St-jean, because they share the basic arrangement of a taller wing built onto a long shorter one, with shutters on the nearby windows:
Cafe (new)
But the more I looked at it, the more I was dissatisfied. In De Molen (a sixteenth century watermill, renovated in 1782) has four windows and a door in the shorter nearer wing, whereas this cafe has only three. And the heights of the buildings are very different. Also the road appears to be going uphill away from the camera in the old picture, rather than flat or down as with In De Molen. Then I discovered the truth, which I should have guessed from the whacking great clue written on the wall: this is the old, pre-1908 Brasserie St-Jean, which burned down and was replaced with the current building. The picture is taken from the crossroads, looking along the side of the old building towards the point where the second pair of pictures above were taken.

Car park (old)
Apart from buildings burning down, there have been other changes at Zoete Waters. In this early twentieth century picture, you can see that In De Molen's southern end had a very different upper storey.
Car park (new)
More significantly, the long narrow pond leading up to its front door has now been concreted over into a car park. Our new local council promises to ban on-street parking at Zoete Waters; alas, this probably means more pressure for off-street car parks.

Aqua Dulce (old)
I find this last pair of photographs the most startling contrast. This is the building which now houses the Agua Dulce restaurant, but in those days was the Hôtel des Eaux-Douces. As you can see, the road in front of it is a miserable little lane crumbling into the lake.
Aqua Dulce (new)
Flash forward to today, and while the building has barely changed (apart from the terrace added at the side), the water has again been pushed back and the road widened considerably; it is a secondary route between Leuven and Wavre, and a key artery in our own little commune. It is easy to forget just how much road traffic infrastructure has developed in my own lifetime (here is a reminder from my original homeland). Meanwhile, the Zoetwater railway station (close to the bridge which was sabotaged in 1943) has been closed for years.

A pleasant pair of excursions. I will be more careful with the sun next time.

NB - most of the photographs were given away by the local news magazine Achter d'Oechelen a few years back. The others are of cards on sale at
Tags: belgium, photographs

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