City Palace   of   Amsterdam
Nederlandse versie updated  07-01-2008
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city palace

Around 1400 the first town hall of the settlement of Amsterdam is built on de Plaetse (nowadays de Dam), with a tower plus clock aside. After a heavy fire in 1452 the city hall is rebuild and extended with a vierschaar (tribunal): an open space where justice is spoken. In 1652 the Amsterdam city hall burns down. For a long time it was much too small and ramshackle anyhow. They start immediately erecting a new and mighty City Hall for the Amsterdam Government and Justice. On the same spot but many times larger. The plans were long existing: several adjacent premises were already bought up for the inevitable new housing. A free-standing, strictly symmetrical colossal building, especially for that time: het  Stadspaleis.

With Jacob van Campen as architect and city-architect DaniŽl Stalpaert as executory master builder. Among the painters are Govert Flinck (Salomo's pray for wisdom), Ferdinand Bol, Jan Lievens, Jacob Jordaens Adriaan Backer (lunette above entrance schepen-room: the Last Judgement). Artus Quellijn (from Antwerp) takes care for all the sculpture work. The abundant artworks also help the citizens to find the way around in this City Palace,
meant for Governmental and Executional Services.

Joost van den Vondel writes in 1655 a poem "Inwijdinge van het Stadhuis t' Amsterdam" in which he describes in details the interior. However, much of it wil not be ready before several decades. Inside the City Palace itself you'll find his poetry.

Merchant Hans Bontemantel fills in the second half of the 17th century all types of administrative positions and left us with interesting writings about the Amsterdam admistration.

In the 18th century scholar Martinus Martens and restorer Jan van Dijk replace the worldmaps on the floor. Jan Hoogsaat en Gerrit Rademaker paint the ceiling of the burgerzaal (citizens hall).

After the Golden Age the economy in the neighbouring countries is growing, but not in the Seven Provinces and especially not in Amsterdam. A cry for democracy is coming up and, encouraged by the patriotic movement in France, in 1795 the Bataafse Republiek is proclaimed. But that is only for a short period: 11 years later Lodewijk Napoleon (brother of the Napoleon) is forced upon as king of Holland. He moves into "his new Palace", in the year 1808 offered to him by a oppressed and destitute city council, the only real  City Hall of Amsterdam !



After the fall of Napoleon in 1813 Prince Willem of Oranje gives the City Hall back to Amsterdam, to take it immediately after his redressing ceremony back in the role of Koning Willem I. Only in 1936 this powerful building is become officially a national property, but it is at the same time by law loaned to the Royal family, so are the palaces Huis ten Bosch and Noordeinde, both in Den Haag (The Hague).
At the moment the City Hall is only in use to welcome foreign politici by our national government, hosted by queen Beatrix. the second floors and up are not at all in use. Interesting point is that the House of Orange never had good relations with this free, tolerant and republican city of Amsterdam.

The exquisite names Citypalace and City Hall on the Dam as a tribute to the once so mighty city of Amsterdam have become wrongfully forgotten and this should be restored as soon as possible!

Don't let them make your head spin:

city hall with ferris wheel

 only the AmsterdŠm administration       
should do here the perspiration ©keitje


guard of honour

While the queen of the Netherlands entertains a head of state in the Amsterdam City palace, a ceremonial appearing 'changing of the guards' takes place at the rear entrance of the palace. (possibly the 17th Armored Infantry Battalion Guards Regiment Fusiliers Prinses Irene, shortened 17painfbatGFPI).

Take a look at the 32 seconds lasting (9MB) videootje.


the facts

From 1639 the City Council starts buying up the necessary houses to build a new and large city hall on the Dam. Jacob van Campen is the designer and executive architect. City architect DaniŽl Stalpaert gets the daily management over the construction of this grand City Hall. In the year 1655 the city hall is official put into service, but the paintings and many decorations still take several decades to be finished.

In 1795 the Bataafse Republic is proclaimed . . . in practice not more than an amiable compromising group of national "rulers" of a number of provinces and cities which themselves have far-reaching powers. Already more or less a satellite state of France, the Republic becomes completely annexed with France in 1806 by emperor Napoleon and is also forced to accept his brother Lodewijk Napoleon as king of Holland. At first the city of Den Haag (The Hague) is chosen as the royal seat, but the Amsterdam City Council has to hand over her City Hall within two years (slowly but surely, and at first just temporarily) to the new king. And the Counsil has to move to the Prinsenhof on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal. These moving costs will be at first paid by the State. The city of Amsterdam herself has to look for new quarters for the state authorities who are using at the time the building complex Prinsenhof.

Renovations start, mainly from the inside, fortunately without too much demolishing. The occupant will take care for the maintenance. A balcony appears right across the width on the side of the Dam square. A number of artworks are moving to the Prinsenhof, others given in custody to two private gentlemen. But part of that will be soon handed over to the king by force. Among are the paintings The Night Watch and the Syndics of the Cloth Guild. The king even forces the town to take down its constantly-in-use Weighhouse on the Dam. This all happens in spite of all the criticism by the mayor, dignitaries and citizens.

Every other year in August there is a temporary exposition by Dutch artists, where the four best works are getting a prize. This tradition still exists.

After the fall of Napoleon in 1813, Prince Willem of Oranje gives at first the building back to the city of Amsterdam, but right after his crowning to king he wants t back. Because of the bad financial position of Amsterdam it is permitted to the royal family to have the use of the Citypalace for the time being. The occupant will take care for the maintenance. From that time on the Citypalace stands most of the time empty.

After World War I it is clear that the building is very neglected and that much overdue maintenance is necessary on the in- as well as outside. Amsterdam does not have the finances for a renovation, for moving and for maintaining and it is decided that the building is not suitable anymore to be used as City Hall. So it becomes in 1936 state property for a poor compensation of 10 million guilden (even less then the original construction costs about 250 years ago) and it is placed at queen Wilhelmina's disposal. Now the building is official a Palace of the Kingdom and a renovation starts on taxpayers money, striving for the situation it was in before 1806. Renamed as Palace on the Dam it is used for years now as a national historic monument to receive and accomodate official state visitors. And as a fun-fair for the Orange sprouts, like their coronations, weddings and stag nights.




Once built as a public meeting place for civil servants, merchants, citizen and visitors, it is now only to the public once in a while and then for an entrance fee. A museum pass is not valid, so even the Amsterdammer have to pay each time he set foot in his own City palace.

It is sensible to keep the City palace as state property, being a national monument. Especially knowing the selling rage of the Amsterdam city councils: its previous cable network, energy services, social housing, public transportation.

However, the user rights are now in the hands of the Orange family instead of the Amsterdammers themselves. This royal error still has to been taken care of to do justice.



palaces   monarchy   city official   city archive

Jacobine E. Huisken: the royal palace on the Dam in a historical view
Geert Mak: kleine geschiedenis van Amsterdam  &  het stadspaleis

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