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