Most people born in Venlo in the previous century can remember it perfectly: the old post office on the Keulsepoort. The place you went to to post letters or packages, to empty your post box, transferring your license plate, and to purchase a sheet of stamps. The post office closed in 2009, after which the largest part of the monumental building was left empty (the Dutch phone company KPN still uses a part of the building as a switching station).
The post office as we know it today was built in 1939 after a design of Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands Hoekstra. The history of the Venlo post office however goes back a long way.
At the start of the 18th century, the post office in Venlo was predominantly a substation of the Governmental Post Office in Tegelen. The tariffs were lower here, and the sloppiness of the post office was notoriousthroughout the city, causing its inhabitants to often collect their mail in Tegelen. After that, the Venlo post office was housed in a lot of different places in the inner city: first on the Klaasstraat where lunchroom/café de Brasserie is now, then in the house of postal director Conraetz on the Parade, and after that it was housed in a few rooms of the De Gouden Leeuw (The Golden Lion) lodging on the Vleesstraat, and in a building on the Houtstraat next to hotel Zwijnshoofd (Hog’s Head).
In 1871, the Central Government of the Netherlands decided to build the Venlo post office on the corner of the Keulse Poort and the Hamburgersingel (now the Deken van Oppensingel). The same spot where the current post office would be built in 1939. On 1 May 1880, the first post office on the Keulsepoort opened its doors.
Despite a number of smaller and larger refurbishments, the building was deemed to be “extraordinarily unsuitable” in 1930. It was too cramped, too dark, and cluttered. Eventually, the existing post office was taken down and replaced by a new building on the exact same spot. This is the post office as we still know it today. The construction started in 1939 and the building on the Keulsepoort was formally opened on 27 September 1941.
The building on the Keulsepoort has been built in the traditionalist style. The façade contains ornaments by sculptor Charles Vos which – among other things – depict three well-known Venlonians, the crests of the Netherlands and Limburg, and the history of Venlo.
The post office escaped the war relatively unscathed. Immediately after the liberation, American army cooks turned the post office basements into a kitchen. After they left, one of the basement rooms was used as an emergency pub for some time. The walls were painted with scenes from the city’s history. A modest cafeteria for the post office staff was housed on the first floor.
From the fifties onwards, extensions were attached to the post office in three separate phases due to lack of space. In 1967, the main hall was redecorated and the number of post boxes and counters was increased. In the second phase of the renewal, the passage from the Nassaustraat to the inner courtyard disappeared. In the third phase, a new wing was built on the side of the Deken van Oppensingel. This gave the originally L-shaped building a square shape.
In 1978, the building was let. The building was still used as a main office, but the mail was no longer pre-sorted at the Keulsepoort. A new building was built for this in Blerick in 1987. In 2009, the post office lost its public function and it was sold to a project developer.
Eventually, (a part of) the post office was bought by the Municipality of Venlo and the repurposing of the post office as a new museum location became fact. In 2021, Museum van Bommel van Dam will move to the refurbished post office. The building is on the list of the National Monuments in Venlo.
Photographs: Gemeentearchief Venlo (Municipal Archives Venlo)