The Silversmith Building and Silversmith Alley
Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - titel

Silversmith Building Antwerp

architect unknown

Antwerp, Lange Koepoortstraat 58

1561-1570

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - poort aan de Lange Koepoortstraat

Silversmith Building Antwerp

Last week I visited the Silversmith Building and the accompanying Silversmith Alley for the first time. I was expected in the Lange Koepoortstraat in the afternoon. The black gate hides the beautiful building that once served as the workshop and guild house of the Silversmiths.

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - gang vanaf de straat

Heritage Day 2021

The reason for this visit was Heritage Day 2021. Especially for this edition, a walk was developed with audio guidance (physical is still not allowed …) via Den Wolsack to the Hofkamer and through the hidden door to the Silversmith Alley. That hidden door is difficult to find in the Hofkamer. It is not that difficult to find in the garden of the Silversmith Building. In the photo below you can see the small door in the middle of the photo.

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - zicht op de deur naar de Hofkamer en Den Wolsack

Silversmiths

The Silversmith Building was built between 1561 and 1570 as the back house for the Hoefeyser house (now Lange Koepoortstraat 60) by order of the guild of the silversmiths. The ground floor was finished in 1564 and was used as a studio. Silversmiths, like painters and sculptors, work in unchanging northern light. So there were no windows in the south facade. The first floor was later finished, which was used for parties, meetings and banquets. She was given the name ‘Bruyloftcamer’ (wedding room).

Visitors of the Bruyloftcamer came through the front house and a gallery to a small hanging room that offered a view of the silver studio. The statues that decorated the gallery were designed by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt. Below the gallery were latrines (toilets) with seats! This was exceptional for the time.

After a few years, the northern light that were necessary for the silversmiths turned out to be less interesting for the celebrations. They asked the back neighbor to put two windows in the south facade. That was all right with a few yards of floral velvet. At the moment you can see an almost complete blind facade from the garden of Den Wolsack. The two windows can only be seen on the far right side.

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - gevel achterhuis

Financial difficulties

At the end of the sixteenth century, the financial situation of the guild of silversmiths became untenable: the properties of the guild were sold. They will continue to rent the Bruyloftcamer. 130 years later, in 1727, the silversmiths buy back the Hoefeyser front house and the rear house with the Bruyloftcamer. These buildings remained in the guild’s ownership for less than 50 years, due to financial difficulties the buildings had to be sold back.

The Black Sisters move into the buildings to care for the sick. In 1864 silversmith Egide Joseph Watlé buys the Silversmith Building. A nice follow-up for the building.

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - interieur achterhuis waar vroeger atelier zilversmeden

Restauration

Over the years, various adjustments have been made to the interior, such as stairs that were moved. The secret annex was protected as a monument in 1976. 20 years later, Ada Bakelants and Wim Verhulst buy the Silversmith Building and start a long renovation with respect for the building’s history.

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An original wooden window by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt has been preserved and hangs in the room below. The detailing of the wood is beautiful. Part of the new floor has been left open with a view of the old tiles and beams. The fireplace in the smaller room on the ground floor has been given tiles rescued from a container at Den Wolsack. Remains of a wall painting can still be seen next to the fireplace.
Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - oude vloer

Music Practise Sterling

The former studio is now home to children’s choir and music practice Sterling (site only in Dutch), founded by the couple. There are choir classes and piano lessons for over a hundred students every week. The name Sterling stands for children’s sparkles and stars, but also refers to silver. Every week (in normal times) the voices can be heard along the old walls. The space is also made available to third parties for lectures, for example, and there is also a room that is rented through AirBnB.

Zilversmidspand en Zilversmidgang Antwerpen - gang vanaf het achterhuis

Silversmith Building

 

architect unknown

Antwerp, Lange Koepoortstraat 58

1561 – 1570

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