Today, the White House (Witte Huis), with a height of 43 metres, is nothing special in the skyline of Rotterdam. But when it was built in 1898, it was the tallest building in the whole of Europe.
What makes the building so special today, is the fact that it is one of the few buildings in the centre of the city that survived the bombings in 1940. While the whole surrounding of the White House was destroyed, the building was not affected.
On the rooftop there is a viewing platform that was already reachable by elevator in 1898: something extremely modern for those days. The outside of the building is clearly art-nouveau, with 4 narrow towers on the corners and with white tiles all over the walls.
In 1990 the tower was completely renovated and today it looks just like it did in the beginning of the 20th century.
At the western end of the Kop van Zuid (the island in the Meuse river), you will find this beautiful old building that today is known as Hotel New York. This originally was known as the headoffice of the famous Holland-America Line (HAL).
In the end of the 19th century this boat connection between Rotterdam and New York became very popular and in these decades about half a million immigrants were brought to the "New World" from here.
Because after the number of travellers to America decreased quickly after the beginning of the 20th century, the HAL became less popular. In 1971 the last boat departed from Rotterdam.
In 1984 the building was sold by the HAL and in 1993 the hotel that you'll find here nowadays was opened.
Rotterdam was nearly completely destroyed during WW2 and is now dominated by modern architecture. So it is nice to discover the one or other historic building between the skyscrapers. The former building of the Holland Amerika Lijn is some kind of historic skyscraper and one of the less hidden older buildings. Now it is the Hotel New York from which you have a nice view onto the Nieuwe Maas with the port in the background. Behind the hotel, you will find some older warehouses as well as modern buildings. Hotel New York is an expensive place to sleep, but popular to drink a kopje koffie (or a cup of tea :) ) while watching ships passing by.
The “White House” was once the largest building in Europe and also Europe's first "skyscraper". Completed in 1898, it was a huge skyscraper of its time with a height of 45 meters and two elevators. The building luckily survived WWII without major damages, but it was not until the 1990s when it was refurbished. Today, it still a very beautiful part of old Rotterdam.
The town hall is - next to the Sint Laurenskerk - one of the best known buildings from the pre-WWI - era. Built between 1914 and 1920, it was built to replace predecessor buildings close to the church. The place where the town hall stands now, was once a red-light district and the authorities tried to solve tow problems at once: Replace the old town hall and ban the prostitutes from the town center.
The town hall survived WWII almost without any damage and was for years a highly visible landmark between the ruins of the city. Today, it is sometimes overseen between the huge office buildings which form now the skyline of modern Rotterdam.
In the town hall, you will find also the central post office. Look also out for some details, such as statues or a small garden.
Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was one of the most important politicians during the Eighty Years’ War which finally led to the independence of the Netherlands. As a diplomat, he secured the Support of different european countries and succeeded in negotiating an armistice treaty with spain which lasted for 12 years. This led to a conflict with Stadhouder Maurice of Orange, who opposed his peace plans. Religious troubles, during which Orange supported the calvinists while Oldenbarnevelt sipported the more moderate Arminians, led to the arrestion and execution of Oldenbarnevelt. Still today, the eecution of van Oldenbarnevelt is seen as one of the negative points in dutch history. He is remembered all over the Netherlands - but especially in Rotterdam: During 1576 and 1586 he was pensionary of Rotterdam and reponsible for the city’s finances. It was during his time that Rotterdam grew to become an important and wealthy town.
The townhall is situated at the Coolsingel. The building of the townhall started in 1914 and was finished in 1920. In contrast to other buildings around the townhall, built in the neo-renaissance style, was not destroyed during the World War II.
In front of the townhall at the Raadhuisplein you see the monument for the victims of the World War II ‘Past, present and future’, designed by Mari Andriessen. In niches in the frontwall of the townhall stand two statues of eminent lawyers, Johan van Oldebarnevelt at the rightside and Hugo de Groot at the leftside. Under the guidance of Johan van Oldebarnevelt from 1576 till 1586 Rotterdam became a big city.
I visited the townhall several times for my work. During weekdays the townhall can be visited for free. The central hall is the center of the townhal from where all the important halls and rooms can be reached. In the middle of this central hall you have a nice view on the dome. In the eight small windows you can see Europe depicted in glass paintings by the in 1920 most important European trading partners like Great Britain, Russia, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Romenia. In the middle of the hall stands a statue depicting David with an eagle. This statue made out of one piece of marble with a weight of almost 6.000 kilo was a gift by former queen Wilhelmina.
Het Witte Huis (or the White House) was built in 1898, With its 45m it was the highest building in Europe in those days and the first European skyscraper. The building has white glazed tiles with plants- and flower motives. The building was totally made of stone without any steel construction.
Besides the Witte Huis you can see some Merchants Houses of the 18th century, temporary removed for the construction of a railwaytunnel and afterwards rebuilt stone by stone. Nowadays the Witte huis forms with the surrounding area of the Oude Haven (or the Old Harbour) a scenic place in the citycentre.
This beautiful tall building, is one of the few old buildings remaining from before the second world war. Note its tremendous shade of white. It looks excellent by day and at night its a great view to look at as you have a cool drink on a hot summers night. Also check out the bar on its ground floor.
Symbol of peace:
After cleaning up the debrise that was left after the bombing of Rotterdam, an huge empty spot was left... on that spot the burned out remainings of the Saint Laurens church.
It was decided to preserve this church and keep it as a memory of the violence of war and a symbol of restauration of peace and recovery.
Each year, at 4th of May, the evening before the liberation of the city, a rememberance ceremony is held.
There was a time when a building such as the one in this picture was called a skyscraper. In 1897-1898, when it was built, it made quite an impression. 10 storeys! 43 metres tall! Two elevators! It must have looked enormous back then, but unfortunately much bigger skyscrapers have been built since. Too many. Oh, those were the days.....
This big Gothic church is one of a handful of buildings that were allowed to remain after the war. All the walls were still standing. The "architects" that were rebuilding the centre however pledged for its demolition, saying that restoring it would be falsifying history and a new church should be built instead. Without a doubt that new church would be some box with a flat roof if these architects had their way. Others wanted to demolish everything but the tower and then replace it by a copy of the old church, only made of concrete! Thankfully there was some sanity left, and the ruined church was restored using the old parts back to its old shape. It's a big shame that the modern buildings around it are so heartbreaking ugly, this could be a really nice place if some talented architects were commissioned to design something that isn't just practical but attractive as well and respecting the history of the place. But that will probably never happen. It would require a talented architect who has some modesty in his guts. And those are hard to find in The Netherlands.
The church can be visited for much of the day in Summer. It has a typically protestant interior; lots of white and rather empty except for a few works of art that glorify rich and powerful people instead of saints as in a catholic church. Still, it won't cost you anything and there's a small exhibition about the bombing that could be interesting.
The Remonstrants are a protestant denomination that dates back to the 17th century, when conservative and intolerant calvinists seized power and began to oppress all others. The Remonstrants, after a period of exile in Antwerpen (which was under Spanish rule at that time) went underground in hidden churches. There's nothing hidden about this church though, which dates from the early 20th century and was designed by architect Evers, who also designed the town hall. Very nice building, and often open for tourists. But not on this day.
It's located in a neighbourhood that survived the war (and the period after that) without a scratch. Many Jugendstil houses and other interesting buildings.
The 'paradise church' belongs to the Old-Catholic parish. It looks like a Baroque church from the 17th century but in fact dates from 1910. The church replaced a church from the 18th century of which the interior is preserved in this building. Open on Saturdays.
Another "foreign" church. This copy of a 16th-century Norwegian village church was built in 1914 for services for Norwegian sailors. It's the largest wooden building in The Netherlands. Originally it stood at some distance from the current location, but it was moved here because of the construction of a tunnel underneath the river Maas.