Muiderpoort, Amsterdam

Muiderpoort (Muiden Gate)

The Muider­poort is an old city gate from 1770, once part of Amster­dam’s defense system, on Alexander­plein (Alexander Square) near Artis Zoo. It has bridges on either side of it: one bridge across the Plantage Muider­gracht (towards Artis Zoo) and one bridge across the Singel­gracht (towards the KIT, Museum of the Tropics). This is actually the second gate with the name Muider­poort, the first one (from 1663) collapsed in 1769 because of issues with the foundation. Before Amsterdam’s Fourth Expansion (1655-1663), this was where the former village Oetewaal was located. The gate is a national monument.

Outside facing part of the Muiderpoort from 1770 on Alexanderplein, Amsterdam

The outside facing façade of the Muider­poort (Muiden Gate) from 1770 on Alexander­plein (May 2022).

Design of Amsterdam’s Southeastern Gates

All major city gates on the southeastern side of town had a similar design: a city moat on the inner side of the wall for trans­porting goods, a 5 m (16.4 ft) high city wall (an earthen wall clad with stone on the outside), a main gate building on top of it, followed by two wooden draw bridges over the outer city moat. This outer moat was the Singel­gracht, 60 m (196 ft) wide, with a hamei (a simpler gate, often with a port­cullis or other iron fence) on the out­side perimeter.

Weesperpoort, Amsterdam, in 1850, drawing by Adriaan Eversen

Weesper­poort, seen from the current Maurits­kade. Drawing by Adriaan Eversen from 1850 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

The Utrecht, Weesp and Muiden Gates by design all looked very much alike, in order to not give potential enemies any clues as to where they were exactly outside the city.

First Muiderpoort (1663-1769)

The first Muider­poort was built in 1663 as part of Amsterdam’s Fourth Expansion (1657-1663). This first Muider­poort collapsed in 1769 because it slid off of its foundation in the soggy terrain, sinking 4.5 m (14.7 ft). This could have been a case of construction fraud or simply caused by shortcuts taken to speed up the building. Earthen dikes and defense walls like this needed around 10 years to settle in this type of wet soil — and Amsterdam was probably in too much of a hurry to finish the defense wall project.

Demolition of the Muiderpoort gate, Amsterdam, in 1769, drawing by Jan Schouten

Demolition of the Muider­poort gate in 1769, seen from the Singel­gracht, after it slipped off its foundation and sank into the ground. Drawing by Jan Schouten (1716-1792) (Rijks­museum).

Second Muiderpoort (1770-now)

After the demolition of the first Muiderpoort 1769, the second (current) Muiderpoort was built in its place, designed by city master builder Cornelis Rauws (1736-1772) in Louis XVI style, with sculptures by Anthonie Ziesenis (1731-1801). On the outer side is the new Amsterdam city seal with three Andreas-crosses, on the city side the old city seal with a cog ship. Architect Rauws has a plaque on the city side of the gate, com­memo­rating his heroic action during the great fire which destroyed the Amsterdamse Schouwburg (Amsterdam Municipal Theater) on May 11, 1772. He saved multiple people, but died himself. The bell tower has a bronze bell from 1664 cast by the famous Hemony brothers.

View of the Muiderpoort in Amsterdam, after Abraham Vinkeles

View of the Muiderpoort around 1850 from inside the city, after Abraham Vinkeles (Rijks­museum).

This gate was located between the inner and outer moat of the old city wall, the original Lijn­baans­gracht (then simply called Baangracht) and the Singelgracht. Of all city gates which provided access to the city in the 17th and 18th century this is the only remaining one. St. Anthony’s Gate from the 15th century (repur­posed in the 16th century to be the Waag or Weigh House on Nieuw­markt square) is the only other old city gate still standing.

Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, detail of a map from 1867

Muider­poort under the lens, on a map from 1867. Outside the gate still little develop­ment, the Muider­bos already shrunk considerably. Current Linnaeus­straat was still called Oete­walerweg. Top right the Room­tuintjes tavern.

The Fate of the Gate

Initially the city gates had a primary mili­tary and toll booth function — they closed every night and in the daytime only opened after payment of a fee. In the 19th century the gates and bastions lost their defensive function, but they were not demolished because they were also used to collect city excises. The Muider­poort survived because it was properly built — the Utrechtse­poort and Weesper­poort had been done too hastily, became derelict and were demolished.

View through the Muiderpoort towards Singelgracht, Amsterdam

View through the Muiderpoort towards Singelgracht (May 2022).

Once all traffic went through this outer and main gate, but in 1898 it was considered too narrow and the outer fence-gate from 1770 was removed. It was stored — in 1938 it was placed at the entrance of the Flevo­park, where it can still be seen today. In 1903 the original bridge was replaced by a new one built next to the main gate – traffic now went around the gate, not through it.

Placement of the outer fence-gate of the Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, entrance of the Flevopark, in 1938

Placement of the former outer gate of the Muider­poort at the entrance of the Flevo­park and of the Jewish cemetery in July 1938 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

The gate lost its tax function in 1866 when municipal excises were abandoned. From 1914 until 1924 the gate became a police station. In 1945 it became the workshop of sculptor Jaap Kaas (1898-1972), author of many sculptures in Artis Zoo. In 1963 it housed the Inter­national Bureau of Fiscal Documen­tation (IBFD), since 2002 the Neder­landse Orde van Belasting­adviseurs (Dutch Order of Tax Consultants). In 2019 the city sold the Muider­poort to Stads­herstel Amsterdam (City Resto­ration Amsterdam). In 2021 the clock was restored.

Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, viewed from Alexanderplein in the direction of the Plantage

Muiderpoort, viewed from Alexander­plein in the direction of the Plantage neigh­bor­hood. In front the new road, directing traffic around the gate instead of through it, with the new bridge from 1903 towards Plantage Midden­laan (May 2022).

Muiderbos (Muiden Wood)

The Muiderbos (Muiden Wood, more a small public park than an actual wood) was planted in the 17th century, just outside of the Muider­poort, more or less where the Tropen­museum is now. The initiative for the park came from French King Louis Napoleon, who governed the Netherlands at that time (1806-1810) for his brother, Emperor Napoleon.

Muiderbos with Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, drawing by Gerrit Toorenburg from 1761

Muiderbos with Muider­poort on the right, drawing by Gerrit Tooren­burg (1737-1785) from 1761 (Stads­archief Ansterdam).

In 1876 construction of the Dapper­buurt (Dapper neigh­bor­hood) began, necessi­tating a better road through the Muiderbos. In 1884 a new horse-drawn tramway to Linnaeus­straat marked the beginning of the end for the park, as it gradually became smaller and smaller to facilitate the development. The later Ooster­park, constructed partly on the grounds of the old Ooster­begraaf­plaats (Eastern Cemetery), meant the Muider­bos became redundant. In 1895 the city placed an iron fence around the Muider­bos and its last remnants disap­peared when the KIT (Tropen­instituut, Colonial Institute) was finished between 1910 and 1926.

Roomtuin Tavern

Along the Oete­waler­weg were many inns and taverns by the mid 18th century. They were popular cheap drinking places (no beer tax outside the city limits) as well as providing lodging for travelers who could not enter the city after the gates closed at night.

Roomtuin tavern near Linnaeusstraat, Amsterdam, drawing by J.M.A. Rieke from 1870

Roomtuin tavern near Linnaeus­straat, drawing by J.M.A. Rieke from 1870 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

A bit further north along the Singelgracht (current Maurits­kade where it meets the Pieter Vlaming­straat) was the popular tavern and leisure garden Room­tuintjes (Cream Gardens). It got its name because cows from cattle merchants were stalled and milked here at night before being sold the next day — the cream was sold to the tavern’s guests. The complex was demolished between 1880 and 1884 for the construction of the Dapper­buurt (Dapper neigh­bor­hood).

Napoleon at the Muider­poort in 1811

In October 1811 Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte entered the city through this gate. Together with his 19-year old second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria (1791-1847) and an escort of many soldiers, he visited the Nether­lands to show the people their new boss. At the end of the procession (which took a good 45 minutes to pass) he made hundreds of shantily clad Spanish prisoners-of-war march along, to nip any possibile unrest in the bud.

Napoleon is offered the keys to Amsterdam in 1811, painting by Van Bree

Napoleon is offered the keys to the city by Van Brienen, then mayor of Amsterdam, at the Muider­poort. Painting from 1813 by Antwerp painter Mattheus Ignatius van Bree (1773-1839). The painting is 6 x 4 m large (20 x 13 ft) (Amsterdam Museum).

Holland had declared the Batavian Republic in 1795 — effec­tively a client state of France — which ended when French King Louis Napoleon was put on the Dutch throne in 1806 by his brother, Emperor Napoleon. Louis abdicated in 1810 because of arguments with his brother about how to govern the Nether­lands. Emperor Napoleon then decided to annex the country into the French Empire and declared Amsterdam the third capital in his reign, after Paris and Rome. Napoleon stayed in Amsterdam for two weeks.

Cossacks at the Muiderpoort in 1813

After Napoleon’s army had been defeated by the Coalition armies of Russia, Austria, Prussia and Sweden in the Battle of Leipzig (October 1813), his hold on the European continent was broken. During the French reign, Amsterdam’s economy had been bled dry to fund Napoleon’s constant wars. On November 14, 1813, a regiment of Bashcir Cossacks (from southern Russia) reached Wijhe, at the river IJssel in the east of the country. At this news Amsterdam crowds burned down the hated French customs houses and many high ranking French officials fled.

A provisional council formed and asked Russian general Alexander von Bencken­dorff to sent troops ahead. Thus Major Marklay was sent behind enemy lines with a few hundred Bashcir Cossacks — they arrived at the Muider­poort on November 24, to help liberate Amsterdam from the last French troops. The French were led to believe there were 10 times as many Cossacks and fled, fearing their ruthless reputation.

Cossacks in the Muiderbos, outside the Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, in November 1813

Cossacks in the Muiderbos, outside the Muiderpoort, in November 1813. Painting by François Joseph Pfeiffer (Rijks­museum).

The Cossacks were a fierce and rowdy bunch on small feisty horses, with exotic colorful attire, their weapons and clothes mostly loot taken on their pillaging sprees. The Amsterdam population came in drones to the Muiderbos to gaze at these exotic warriors. Here they were reasonably well-behaved and welcomed, even if their officers demanded lots of jenever (Dutch gin) and ladies.

The provisional council asked them to proceed through town from Leidse­poort towards Dam square, where they ousted the last French from the palace, after which there was a proclamation of independence. After November 24 Cossack numbers grew to an estimated 1200-2000 — they protected Amsterdam until the French had given up: Diemen on November 25, Halfweg and Utrecht on November 28th, Muiden on December 1st, 1813. Later the Cossacks pursued the fleeing French southbound on to Paris.

Close-up of the outer façade of the Muiderpoort, Amsterdam

Close-up of the outer façade of the Muiderpoort (May 2022).

On December 2nd, 1813, the Prince of Orange (later King William I, 1772-1843) accepted sovereignty on Dam square, escorted by Cossacks and flanked by General Von Benckendorff.

Muiderpoort, Amsterdam, seen from Sarphatistraat

Muiderpoort seen from Sarphatistraat (May 2022).

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