“I am very much pleased with Holland. The Frugality, Cleanliness, &c. here, deserve the imitation of my Countrymen. The Fruit of these Virtues has been immense wealth, and great Prosperity.”
— from a July 1780 letter to Abigail Adams from her husband, John, while on his mission to secure funding from the Dutch government for the American War of Independence
Throughout Amsterdam many houses are decorated with what I have come to call plaques. These often amusing and colorful additions to building façades fascinated me throughout our visit.
This practice comes down to us from the Middle Ages, a time when many people were illiterate. To help guide these people, houses were identified by a stone plaque, which either carried a picture of the owner’s profession or a reference to the owner’s name. The plaques often carry the year when the house was built. There are more than 650 plaques preserved throughout Amsterdam. Keep your eyes peeled for them. Building numbers were introduced when Napoleon’s rule held sway.
Subject matter ranged from the Bible (see photos #1 & #4) to the production of wool (see photo #3) to a traditional Dutch windmill (see photo #2). My favorite is Michael the Archangel slaying the Devil; this can be found on Herengracht. Not all date from the Middle Ages; I found one dated as recently as 2001 (see photo #5).
You may notice it on some building particularly old ones, a colorful tablet with carvings - mostly of people in uniforms or professions. These tablets embedded on the wall or the facade of the house actually serves as an identification and visual description of the house or building owner long before the invention of house numbers.
For easy identification, engraved on the tablets are picture form most of the time the profession of the house owner and of course the last name insribed.
Amsterdam's houses are very special with their gable stones and architecture. But also some of them have beautifully decorated façades like these ones. The one with the elephant ornament is from a street which has relatively big houses on it. The other with men figures is close to the Schreierstoren (Weeping Tower).
Early streets in Amsterdam did not have names and the houses were not numbered, instead decorative plaques were placed on the houses to identify them and the house would be known by the description of what was on the plaque. I would imagine that the house this plaque was on was known as “The House of the Sun” or even “The House of the Rising Sun”!
The plaques are all over Amsterdam, we saw quite a few in the Warmoesstraat and Zeedjik area not surprising really as these are two of the oldest streets in the city. Keep an eye out for them and there is also a display outside the Amsterdam Historical Museum.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to say “I live at the House of the Leopard” rather than “No. 19”! Much more poetic!
The history of Amsterdam is married to the sea. This has become a theme of story telling as well as architectural design. Here, carved into a granite gable is a fine example honoring the history of maritime Amsterdam.
A MODERN STONE TABLET WITH A TROUT and a staff with musical notes if I am not mistaken from FRANZ SCHUBERT'S "DIE FORELLE".
On the stone tablet the years 1914 - 1994.
You can admire it on the house of a retired musician at the BLOEMGRACHT 34 AMSTERDAM, the netherlands...
i LOVE IT VERY MUCH AND YOU???
"DE VERGULDE HALVE MAEN EN DRY STARRE"......
The Gilt half moon and three stars, is the translation of the name of this house....
1st half 17th Century and where to be found?????
Nieuwezijds Kolk Amsterdam.
" TIS AL OUT" AN ENIGMATIC TEXT......
EVEN to the Dutch the text on this stone tablet is "DOUBLE DUTCH".
Where you can see and admire this one: Reguliersdwarsstraat 25 Amsterdam.
RENT A BIKE AND CYCLE AROUND AND YOU WILL FEEL STUNNED......
Walking through Amsterdam along the canals and through the narrow alleyways you will find lots of MEMORIAL STONES : all wonderfully restored (most of them!) and impressive.....
They show the name of the house and a TERRIFIC picture/relief, which often explains the owner's job/trade but also can be quite mysterious and then we can only enjoy the monument, because that is what they all are.....little MONUMENTS of OLD AMSTERDAM....
You can admire this stone (17th Century) here: BUITEN BROUWERSSTRAAT 22 AMSTERDAM
MERMAID AND MERMAN.......
"They" live in Gein, Abcoude, which is near Amsterdam and the place where the WORLD FAMOUS painter MONDRIAAN preferred to work.
Here he created his first works which I prefer to the later modern ones...they are in my Amsterdam page under THE NETHERLANDS...
Staalstraat is a little street that leads up to the Stopera (Amsterdam opera house and town hall) and Waterlooplein.
I like gablestones and was glad that my new camera could zoom in on it properly.
It says: 1734 - little man from the mountain.
One stands in amazement when looking at the different gables that you see here in Amsterdam, actually in the whole of the Netherlands.
Facades of old town houses in Amsterdam, Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. This particular street is the place to be for collectors of antiquities.
"ADAM EN EVA".....
"ADAM AND EVE"
(the fall of man)
Dates from: 1st half 17th Century
ADDRESS: Singel 367 AMSTERDAM
INT VETTE VARKEN......
"IN THE FAT PIG"
ADDRESS: Tweede goudbloemdwarsstraat 26 AMSTERDAM
A RICH BUSINESS MAN PROBABLY!!