December 3rd, 1953 the first committee was appointed to study the possibilities for expanding Utrecht University beyond the city boundaries. The primary task was to find new grounds for the Faculty of Veterinary Science. At least 100 hectares were needed. Grounds near 'Fort De Bilt' were considered first.
The 'Johannapolder' was taken into consideration. It was potentially three times bigger than the area near De Bilt. Location: east of the city, empty, except for a few farmhouses and one of the fortifications of the 'Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie': the 'Werk aan de Hoofddijk'. At the time the Johannapolder spreaded across Utrecht, De Bilt, Zeist and Bunnik.
The Dutch cabinet, the Minister of Research and Education, J.M.L.Th. Cals (in Dutch), agreed on the acquisition of the 'Johannapolder' for Utrecht University. The name 'De Uithof' was chosen for the university centre. This name was taken from the most prominent farm in the area, but it is also a generic name for farms situated on grounds owned by the clergy.
The civil engineer J.A.G. van der Steur (1899 - 1966) was assigned to draw a masterplan for the new university developments and he was also appointed as supervisor for all construction activities. Van der Steur was partner in the firm 'Van Hasselt en De Koning', later to become 'Haskoning', but his assignment was on a personal basis. This led to some controversy between the university and 'Van Hasselt en De Koning' concerning the succession of Van der Steur in 1967.
Johannapolder ca. 1960
The aerial picture shows the 'Johannapolder' around 1960. The military object 'Werk aan de Hoofddijk' can easily be identified. The road 'Hoofddijk' which is of mediaeval origin runs from the fortification to the north east until it reaches the 'Bunnikseweg'. Just south of the fortification, a road streches to the south east. This is the 'Bisschopssteeg' (alley of the bishop) of which remnants can still be found north of the 'Leuvenlaan' and between the 'Bestuursgebouw' of the university and the 'Cambridgelaan'. It is preserved between the student housing 'de Bisschoppen' and Heidelberglaan 7, a building of the University of Applied Science. South of the Cambridgelaan you'll find it in front of studenten housing 'Johanna'. The 'Bisschopssteeg' dates back to the 13th century. The bishop of Utrecht seemed to have used this road to travel between the city and his home: castle Duurstede. A little further to the south buildings can be identified near the forked road. This is the farm 'De Uithof'. The curved path 'Hoge bospad' is still present as is the other road (Zandlaan) towards neighbouring village Bunnik.
The bottom left corner of the picture shows a bend in the river 'Kromme Rijn' which floats near 'De Uithof'. From there, a road can be seen, leading to the fortification. This road, known by the name 'military road' has been demolished almost entirely. Of the other road, northwest of the fortification', the 'Oostbroekselaan', a small part can still be found outside 'De Uithof', near the former Fortis office buildings of 'Rijnsweerd'.
During the 20th century, the 'Bisschopssteeg' was known as alley of 'Toon van Scherpenzeel', who was the 3rd generation farmer living at farm 'De Uithof'. In the 20s of last century young couples used to court in this alley. Apparently fear of disorderly behaviour lead to the enforcement (1924) of a local regulation stipulating that it was forbidden to sit or lie here with someone of the opposite sex.
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