|Heading west from the huge Amsterdam train station, upper right,|
the Herengracht is the second gracht (canal).
I say nominally because so many of those of the tour were experts of their own. This was part of a reunion of the Boissevain family, which became prominent because of its reputation for being well-informed in banking circles. My mother's grandfather Charles Boissevain was the publisher-editor of the Algemeen Handelsblad, which in his day was the New York Times of the Netherlands.
The two central canals that we walked are the most important of the four canals of the Grachtengordel (Canal Belt or Ring), which encircles central Amsterdam, including the Royal Palace and Dam Square. The canals are connected by major roads such as the Leidsestraat, the Haarlemmerweg and the Utrechtsestraat, which cross the canals on bridges. The canal boats have to fit under the bridges, so they have their uniquely low roofs.
The Canal Ring grew during the glory days of Amsterdam. Its conception and execution are marvels of organization, planning and community spirit. The whole city rests on wooden piles that resist rot because they stay under water. The Royal Palace, built in 1655 as the Amsterdam City Hall, rests on nearly 13,700 piles driven into the marshy ground. The Ring is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its exemplary large-scale urban planning.
The following walking tour is focused on buildings of interest to members of the Boissevain family. It began at 9:30 am on Sunday, April 17, 2016. It covered buildings from Herengracht 40 to 386.
The word Herengracht is hard to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers because it has three consonants in a row in two places. (The Japanese language does not permit any consonant without a vowel suffix, except for a terminal "n". So Herengracht would be spelled something like Herengurakuto, with three extra vowels in the last syllable.) It also includes the awesome Dutch guttural "ch", which even their German cousins have trouble with – that's how Dutch people could always identify a German during World War II.
If you come from the central train station, take a right turn and walk along the Prins Hendrikkade. To your left look for a landmark in the area between the train station and the Herengracht–the Ronde Kerk (Round Church) on the Singel, near the bridge to the Haarlemmerstraat. The copper-domed Ronde Kerk is the only Protestant round church in Holland. It is also called the Koepelkerk (for the cupola). It is owned by the Lutheran Church but isn't used as a church any more. (Instead, Lutherans use the Oude Lutherskerk, the Old Lutheran Church, farther south on the Singel.)
|Landmark–The Ronde Kerk on|
the Singel, near the top of the
Envision the Ronde Kerk Fire, 1822. If you find yourself at the Ronde Kerk, think back to the first half of the 19th century. It is 1822, and the Church is on fire! It's a huge conflagration. Horses careen past, pulling fire department water tanks and ladders. Some warehouses are beginning to be engulfed in flames.
She is home alone. She is just 23 and she is frightened of the fire, as well she should be. A few years before, she married Willem de Clercq, who will later become famous as a writer and businessman. She flees, first putting on a beautiful hat with a large feather. There she goes, through a shower of sparks, to her father Daniel. We're going to follow her as she runs for help.
|The walking tour covers 12 blocks, from Herengracht |
40, at the north end of the canal, above #41, to the
Amsterdam Historical Museum. We actually
overshot the turn and walked to #27.
Stop and take a look at this area, which is one of the most beautiful places in Amsterdam.
The Herengracht is the most important canal in Amsterdam. The walking tour started here, at Herengracht 40.
In the 17th century, the Herengracht was the neighborhood where the richest merchants and the most influential officials of the city lived.
The chicness of the address has persisted to the end of the 20th century.
9:15 a.m. Herenmarkt. In the instructions for walkers, anyone who arrived early was directed to pause at the Herenmarkt, a small square above the Herengracht marked on the map with #42. It was once a market and is now a small children's playground.
|West India House.|
Behind the square stands the West India House, built in 1617. From 1624, the modest-sized building was the head office of the Dutch West India Company, a multinational that administered all of the Dutch colonies in the Americas.
Here in 1625 the Company decided to found New Amsterdam, which was renamed New York when the British took over the city.
START OF TOUR:
|First stop: 40 Herengracht. The|
Dutch Trading Company.
|Herengracht 102. Note how renovations filled in|
the top of the building (L) compared with before (R).
END OF OUR TOUR. We ended at 386, the Canal Museum, where Alice and I the day before saw a well-put-together tour with clever visuals showing the history of the Amsterdam canals. From here, we walked to the Amsterdams Historisch Museum for an 11 a.m. lecture and lunch. On your own you might want to keep going. Or do the tour at the Canal Museum,
Leidsegracht. Behind the bridge on the right hand side is the Leidsegracht, the widest and most important of the four connecting canals between the three main canals. Until 1650, this canal was the border of the city. The city wall was on the right side and the houses on the photo date from a later period. From here on, this part of the canal is called the Gouden Bocht or Golden Bend, the fanciest part of the Herengracht, between Leidsestraat and Vijzelstraat (where the Amsterdam Archief or Archive is located). In 1663 this part of the Herengrach was named the "Golden Bend". The Golden Bend is now mainly made up of banks and life insurance companies, and some cultural institutions, like the Goethe Institute.
466 Herengracht. On the corner of the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, this building was designed by Philip Vingboons and was in 1858-1926 the office of the Dutch Trade Society.
475 Herengracht. The house of the family De Neufville (1731), 475 and the one next it are known for their pretty façades.
581 Herengracht–Italian Consulate.The consulate of Italy is located in a double merchant’s house dating from 1670. The gable is decorated with a large sculpture said to be St. Michael attacking a dragon (if it is St. Michael, the dragon would be Lucifer/Satan), while standing on an elephant's head.
|Afternoon tour started 2:30 p.m. at Keizersgracht 123,|
near #38. The tour had two early surprise
treats and ended at Keizersgracht 484.
|294A Keizersgracht. L to R: Neil Walker|
and Ies; John and Alice Tepper Marlin,
Photo by Kim Buck; posted by permission.
321 Keizersgracht. L to R: Romelia
Ann Boissevain, Pamela Ernestine
Boissevain Wilkinson, Kimberley
Boissevain Buck. Photo by Noah
Sisk, posted by permission.
143 Keizersgracht. This property was owned first by the firm created by Henri Jean Boissevain. Later it was owned by his son Prof. Ursul Boissevain, professor of ancient history and Roman Antiquities in Groningen, the grandfather of Annemie Boissevain, President of the Boissevain Foundation. His son, Annemie's father, didn't survive WWII. Last time she had seen him she was only 4 years old. The house remained in the family until 1930. A beautiful gobelinbehang out of this house now hangs in the Gemeentemuseum.
221 Keizersgracht. Here was housed the Boissevain Brothers firm, which dealt in securities. It was established by two younger brothers of Caroline Boissevain de Clerq–Gédéon Jérémie Daniel (Jr.) and Edouard Constantin. This second Daniel felt eventually attracted to the insurance industry. In this area his younger brother Henri Jean Arnaud Boissevain operated as the firm H. J. A. Boissevain & Son, insurance agents.
|Building at left looks like 324 Keizersgracht. This is the|
Hilda van Stockum painting that was created as the
cover for The Borrowed House, about the Nazi
Occupation of Holland. Posted by permission of the
Estate of Hilda van Stockum.
484 Keizersgracht. This was the home of Jan Canada Boissevain and his family until 1939.
We stopped here but if the tour had been a longer we could have gone on to the following. Perhaps a third tour is needed for the higher numbers in the "Golden Bend" of the canals.
View–Bridges Reguliersgracht. On the right side under the bridge we see one of the most photographed views in Amsterdam: the famous seven bridges of the Reguliersgracht, which are lit up at night.
20th Century Boissevains