History: inside one of the old canal houses in Amsterdam

canal house-1-8Amsterdam is known for old houses like these. Many of them were built in the Golden Age, which started around the 1600’s.

Some of the most elaborate and pretty houses can be found at the Herengracht, built back in the 1600’s to house the city’s nobles (Heren = Lords).

Walking around there, it was difficult to get a picture that didn’t have any kind of motorised transport on it. I’m rather surprised to find that cars don’t end up in the water with regularity, because there are NO fences, but that aside.

When we encountered one such house that was open to the public, we jumped at the occasion.

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This is the main corridor of the Willet-Holthuysen residence, built in 1685 and donated to the council of Amsterdam as museum in the 1800’s. The main corridor is at the top of the stairs that lead to the front door, and all formal living takes place here.

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This is the sumptuous dining room. Apart from this room, the floor also has a room where the man of the house received his guests (presumably male and business-related), a formal tea room and ballroom, as well as this gorgeous garden room:

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I can just about see afternoon tea parties take place here.

The garden, by the way, is massive and backs onto the next street. There used to be a stable out there, too. The incredible size of these houses (basement + four floors, extremely high ceilings) means that surviving buildings are either subdivided or used by businesses.

This is the kitchen in the basement. This is where the servants live and work.

Halfway up the stairs from the formal ground floor to the first floor, we find this odd door. It leads into this room:

This odd, low-ceilinged room in-between floors is used for storage. It is also directly above the dining room. I can just about imagine the eavesdropping by servants going on there!

Up the stairs to the living quarters. Here we find rooms such as the library:

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and bedrooms:

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And also, directly above the garden room, this beautiful cosy men’s smoking room:

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I can imagine that Dad goes up there and slams the door shut when life pisses him off.

The latest owners of the house were a childless couple who were art collectors. Amongst the artworks on the wall was this one, depicting a 17th century family at dinner with servants attending:

People like these would have been living in the house when it was first built.

Above the informal living quarters are two more floors, used for laundry, maids’ rooms, storage and other things required to keep the wealthy household going.

Before you say “How did they get all that stuff up there?” you will notice that every old house in Amsterdam has, at the very top of the facade, just above the window, a protruding beam with a hook hanging down from it. That’s how! Ropes and pulleys.

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