Port House at the Graslei: port of Ghent is coming home

The ‘House of the Free Skippers’ at the Graslei in Ghent will be the port’s figurehead in the city. Ghent Port Company is restoring this cultural heritage and is fitting it out with an exhibition on the present-day port, among other things. In doing so, the port is going back to the place where its cradle once stood.

Exhibition on the port
For centuries on end, the Graslei and Korenlei were buzzing with port activity. When – at the end of the nineteenth century – the port activities moved away from the city centre in northern direction, they gradually came to an end. But before long, the port will revive in the city.

At the end of 2011, Ghent Port Company bought the then unoccupied House of the Free Skippers at the Graslei and is now restoring the historical premises both on the inside and on the outside.

For the Ghent inhabitants and for the tourists alike there will be an exhibition space on the ground floor. Here, one will be able to get acquainted through varying, often interactive modules in sound and vision with the activity in the present-day port and its future.

The first and second floors will be fitted with office spaces. In the cellar there will be a room where port-related events can take place. A seminar space will be fitted out under the wooden truss of the attic.

Watch Haven TV of May 7, 2015 on the new destination of this historical building (in Dutch).

Careful restoration
The sixteenth-century guild house is one of the most prestigious premises in Ghent’s rich cultural heritage and is located at one of the most beautiful spots in the heart of the city of Artevelde. In its Late-Gothic splendour, it radiates the grandeur of one of the most powerful corporations. Consequently, extreme care is crucial.

The restoration works – that consist of three big milestones – were started on March 1, 2016 and will take two and a half years. The opening is planned for autumn of 2018. Callebaut Architecten are leading the restoration works.

Watch HavenTV of April 7, 2016 on these major restoration works (in Dutch).

Significant investment
Ghent Port Company paid out 1.85 million euros for the House of the Free Skippers. On top of that, the complete restoration and redecoration will cost almost 4 million euros. Flanders is going to pay 1.8 million euros of that last amount. The rest is for Ghent Port Company.