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De Bijenkorf

I’m an idiot. Which is to say, I often do not see the forest for the trees.

The ongoing search for “Agincourt” images yielded this beauty, a Sunday school “Rally Day” parade in Davenport, Iowa. All my attention was focussed on how I could photoshop “Davenport” into “Agincourt”. Same number of letters and the last two are the same (“rt”). Should be relatively easy for someone skilled in PhotoShop—which I am not.

Staring at the image (which is more than a little faded), I finally zeroed in on the store fronts and signage. Damned if the first of them Isn’t “THE BEE HIVE”, which is often the name of a department store. And that’s why I’m an idiot.

DE BIJENKORF

One of Marcel Breuer’s lesser known buildings is the De Bijenkorf Department Store in Rotterdam. De Bijenkorf is the Nordstrom’s of the Netherlands, though that may be an insult to the Dutch. I saw it briefly, as I passed through Rotterdam on the way to see a Rob van ‘tHoff house in a small upscale village called Huis ter Heide—which, not incidentally, I could not pronounce sufficiently well to alert the bus driver that’s where I wanted to go. Flash forward to one of our AFS exchange students, Tjipke Okkema, a young man from the Netherlands. One day I asked him about De Bijenkorf (a branch of which you will find in every major Dutch city) and whether it was a family name (like Nordstrom) or something else. He looked at me oddly and informed me “de bijenkorf” means “the bee hive”. Duh!

Suddenly the Breuer building made perfect sense, when I recalled that he’d veneered the exterior with hexagonal panels of limestone.

I’m an idiot.

Coincidentally, Agincourt has a small-town department store with exactly that name, founded around the turn of the century by Dutch emigrants to that part of Iowa. So, this very expensive eBay postcard from Davenport could serve double duty: emblematic of a street festival and Agincourt’s own home-grown department store.


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