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23Nov

Where is the legacy of ‘Opa de Vroom’?

The jack-of-all-trades Pieter de Vroom Senior was an architect-contractor in the colonial city of Medan (Sumatra-Indonesia) during the first half of the 20th century, until the 2nd World War. He happened to be my grandfather (opa) and the person that persuaded me at the age of nine, to become an architect. In the family memorabilia there is nothing left of his works, except the direct oral testimonials of my aunt and niece. They said that one of ‘Opa de Vroom’s’ main accomplishments is the well-known Varekamp building, a bookstore and newspaper ‘Art-Deco’ building on the Kesawan which is the main street of the old colonial city centre of Medan. Equipped with three vague photos of different buildings of ‘Opa de Vroom’ I finally went in the autumn of 2014 for my search of his work. After visiting the buildings of the photos and discovering new ones I became more and more convinced that Varekamp had to be his! Besides, local experts on architectural heritage told me that, curiously enough, this was the only building left on the Kesawan of which they really could not find the author. They assured me to be very happy if I could fill the gap in their knowledge. So from then on, I have a mission and it proved to be a hard one. Besides in the family archives also in the relevant Dutch and Indonesian archives all useful data concerning this period seem to be missing. Through the spectacular Dutch archive website ‘Delpher’ I discovered with my ‘Sherlock Holmes’ spirit the promising fact that around the time of realisation of the building, Mr. Varekamp and Opa de Vroom both were faithful members of the local volunteer fire brigade, but after that my findings stopped. I’ll never surrender, so I found new leads during the last months after I spoke in Holland with several Dutch experts on colonial heritage in the Dutch-Indies. The building is so nice, they even sell t-shirts with the building on it on internet. Varekamp has to be from Opa de Vroom!

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