Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Amsterdam

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis

The Aalsmeerder Veer­huis (Aalsmeer Ferry House) from 1634 at Sloter­kade 21-22 was previously an inn named “De Bonte Os” (The Piebald Ox). Located outside of the city in the 17th century, at the junction of several roads and waterways, the inn once marked the start of a draw barge line to Aalsmeer and Leiden. Aalsmeer lies 13 km (8 mi) to the southwest of Amsterdam, Leiden 45 km (28 mi) to the southwest. This building is one of the few remaining houses of the old Over­toomse Buurt neigh­borhood and is a national monument.

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis from 1634, seen from across the Sloterkade, Amsterdam

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis from 1634, seen from across the Sloter­kade, the road in front of it being restruc­tured (February 2022).

Of the original pre-1921 neighbor­hood only this building and a few other small houses remain. Bought by Association Hendrick de Keijser, it stood derelict since 1925, until the city dropped plans to move the building else­where. The Aals­meerder Veer­huis underwent an extensive restoration from 1960 to 1965. The Diogenes foundation and the Association of Friends of the Amsterdam Inner City (VVAB) now have their offices here — both safe­keepers of the Amsterdam historic center, as well as a few other foundations.

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Amsterdam, in 1932

Aalsmeerder Veer­huis in 1932 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Sloterkade 21-22, Amsterdam, February 2022

Aalsmeerder Veer­huis on the Sloter­kade 21-22, with roadworks (February 2022).

Draw Barges

Horse drawn barges were very important during the Dutch Golden Age (1575-1675) for inland transport. They were slow, 7 kmh (4.34 mph) but had a very reliable schedule, which was unheard of in Europe at that time. Their importance ended when in the second half of the 19th century steam-powered ships took over and reliable roads and railroads were constructed.

Draw barge in a river in Holland around 1750-1800

Draw barge in a river around 1750-1800 (Utrechts Archief).

Tax Evasion

The Sloterkade (Sloten Quay) was situated on the border between Amsterdam and the old village of Sloten, annexed by Amsterdam in 1921. The Schinkel, a small canalised river, served as an alternative water route to Aalsmeer and Leiden and it was used to evade the toll levied by the city of Haarlem for the Count of Holland on the Spaarne river. To prevent this, Haarlem had a dam constructed here in the 15th century. After the dam in the Schinkel river closed it off, an overtoom was built here in 1514 after a lot of negotiations.

View of the Overtoom, Amsterdam, etching by Reinier Nooms from around 1652

View of the Overtoom by Reinier Nooms, around 1652 (Rijks­museum).

Overtoom & Inns

An overtoom is an overland boat ramp with greased tree trunks, used the pull ships from one waterway into another, to overcome a difference in water level. Small and medium sized ships could be hauled across a ramp to the polder water level by manpower. Normally this was done with the help of winches, but the Count of Holland had prohibited that on this overtoom — thus protecting his levy for the bigger ships, which now were forced to take the route via Haarlem. The current Over­toom road and Over­toomse Sluis bridge get their name from this ramp.

Engraving from 1755 showing the Sloterkade, Amsterdam, with Aalsmeerder Veerhuis

View from the inn “Hof van Holland” across the water (your back is towards Leidse­plein) looking towards Sloter­kade in 1755. Engraving by Nicolaas Aartman (1713-1760). The bigger overhaul is to the left, the smaller one with the winches on the right, meant for small vessels with milk and vegetables, leads towards Sloten via the Sloter­vaart canal (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

This area outside the city walls soon became a bustling neighbor­hood with many artisans and inns, of which the Aals­meerder Veer­huis was the first. The inns had an excellent business model, because travelers who arrived too late found the city gates closed and had to spend the night here until the next morning, outside of the city walls.

The ramp was in use for centuries, until French King of Holland Louis Napoleon decreed in 1807 that it needed to be replaced by a real lock. Those locks, 124 m (135 yd) long with double doors and a bend, were finally finished in 1809 and were called Over­toomse Sluis. The locks were removed in 1944 together with the old bridge near the Schelf­hout­straat. A new and wider bridge was built more towards the Suriname­straat and also named Over­toomse Sluis.

Overtoomse Sluisbrug across the Schinkel, Amsterdam, with sculpture by Hildo Krop

Overtoomse Sluis bridge across the Schinkel. A sculpture by Hildo Krop shows a man operating a winch, reminder of the original overtoom ramp and later lock, which became a bridge in 1944. In the distance the Aals­meerder Veer­huis (February 2022).

Beer Hauling

Gable stones above the entrance show the date of construction and barges unloading beer barrels.

Gable stones on the façade of the Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Amsterdam

Gable stones on the façade of the Aals­meerder Veerhuis (February 2022).

Restored gable stone on the façade of the Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Amsterdam

A restored gable stone on the façade of the Aals­meerder Veer­huis at Sloter­kade (photo Alf van Beem).

The text reads: “Business in this place is good thank God, the beer barrels are continu­ously carried in and out”. The lion with the Haarlem shield on top is a reminder that Haarlem exerted a heavy-handed control on the size of the barges which were allowed to be pulled over the ramp.

Lion with Haarlem coat of arms on the Aalsmeerder Veerhuis, Amsterdam

Top of the façade of the Aals­meerder Veerhuis. Note the lion on top of the gable holding the Haarlem coat of arms, symbolizing the control which the city of Haarlem exerted over the size of the ships allowed to be pulled over the ramp (February 2022).

In 1968 a project company demolished the small houses to the left side of the veerhuis, to replace them with a horrible large box for the Bank­giro­centrale (a bank). They made use of an old rule from before the 1921 annexation of Sloten by Amsterdam, which the city had forgotten to adapt. Now the over­sized building in that spot has been transformed into luxury apartments.

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis on Sloterkade, Amsterdam

Aalsmeerder Veerhuis on Sloter­kade (February 2022).

View from Amstelveenseweg towards the Overtoomse Sluis bridge, Amsterdam

View from Amstel­veense­weg towards the Over­toomse Sluis bridge (February 2022).

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