The former village of Sloterdijk has been part of the municipality of Amsterdam since 1921, now part of the Amsterdam-West borough, about 3 km (1.15 mi) west of the city center. Luckily much the old village is still preserved, wedged in as it is between the city’s old town and some large business parks, across the A10 ring road to the west and across the railway tracks in the north. Before being annexed by Amsterdam in 1921, the village of Sloterdijk was part of the municipality of Sloten, which comprised the villages of Sloten, Sloterdijk, Oud-Osdorp and some smaller settlements.
In the 13th century the Spaarndammerdijk (Spaarndam Dike) was constructed to protect this rural area against the (sometimes raging) waters of the open IJ, still an estuary back then. The former small river Slooter got a dam and a small harbor, which led to associated agricultural trade. The nearby Slootermeer (Sloten Lake), some 5 km (3 mi) to the south, was a rich fishing ground. In 1465 the village was granted the privilege to construct their own weigh house for the farmers, by landlord Philip the Good (1396-1467), Duke of Burgundy. The village was called Slooterdyck from that moment on.
On the map above the village still bordered on an inlet of the waters of the IJ. From Amsterdam (in green) the old Haarlemmerdijk (Haarlem Dike), named Sloterdijk (Sloten Dike) near the village and Spaarndammerdijk (Spaarndam Dike) further on. The straight black line is the Haarlemmer Trekvaart, a canal for draw barges towards Haarlem, constructed in 1631. On the right of it is the village of Halfweg (Half Way), literally halfway between Amsterdam and Haarlem.
The original Catholic church here was probably built before 1450, but records about it have been lost. Because the village of Sloterdijk was situated on the edge of the IJ waters close to Amsterdam, it was often targeted in battles. The church was set ablaze in 1572 during an attack by Watergeuzen (Water Beggars), a confederacy of Calvinist Dutch nobles, who fought Spanish rule in the Netherlands from 1566 at sea as pirates.
The church was patched up again and became a Protestant church in 1578 (the Protestant Alteration), named Petruskerk from then on. It was rebuilt and restored in 1664 and has remained almost the same since then — the 15th century church tower was incorporated in the new church. Shortly after that the closeby Slotermeer (Sloten Lake) was drained and poldered in, making Sloterdijk part of the dry land around Amsterdam.
In 1967 a Foundation to save the Petruskerk and surrounding old village negotiated long and hard to prevent demolition — they bought the church and annexes in 1978. The church has been a national monument since 1979. The whole site was extensively restored between 1980 and 1992.
The Petruskerk cemetery is unique for Amsterdam with its above ground tombs — above ground burial was not possible in Amsterdam, but was possible here since the 17th century. This burial method was mostly used by wealthy Amsterdam inhabitants.
The tomb in the image above was built for Lucas Jonker, owner of a factory on Bickerseiland (famous for the Giant of Bickers Island statue). After the last owner in Spain ceded the rights, the tomb is now owned by an Amsterdam businessman living on Keizersgracht, who had the text put on the tomb in gilded letters.
Dirk van den Broek (1924-2020), owner of the supermarket chain, bought a tomb here to support the restorations. He had opened a milk store at Mercatorplein in 1942, which in 1948 became the first self-service supermarket in Amsterdam. His parents had a bench in the church and he himself was baptized and married there.
Road to Haarlem
When the Haarlemmertrekvaart (Haarlem draw barge canal) was dug in 1632 the village prospered, placing a tollbooth on the towpath. Soon many well-to-do Amsterdam citizens built country homes along this new road from Amsterdam to Haarlem. In 1839 the very first train in the Netherlands left from the Sloterdijk station to Haarlem. The railroad connection (parallel to the draw barge canal) meant the end of the draw barges, the last one operated in 1883. The railroad station existed in the village from 1890 to 1905. The later 1956 station was moved to the northwest in 1985, along a new rail track to Zaandam that had opened in 1983.
From 1882 steam trams, followed by horse drawn trams, connected the village to Amsterdam, replaced by an electric tram since 1916. From 1904 to 1957 there was also an electric tram from Amsterdam to Haarlem and Zandvoort. From 1982 city trams connected the village to Amsterdam.
Saved by the Graves
Today almost nothing shows how this small village once bordered on the waters of the IJ. To the north a large part of the IJ was poldered in and made into an industrial area, the new harbors were moved further north and northwest. The construction of the Sloterdijk train station in the village in 1956, the construction of the Coentunnelweg (A10) in 1962-1968 and the planned large industrial areas in the Westelijk Havengebied did not bode well. Sloterdijk had already been almost gobbled up by the Amsterdam-West borough.
In 1968 the church board closed the church and wanted to sell it and its annnexes. No maintenance was done at all for the next ten years and the church became derelict. Themiddle horizontal new city plans for the Westelijk Havengebied (Western Harbor Area) threatened to erase the village completely in favor of industries and offices. So a Foundation was created in 1968, aiming to preserve the church and remaining surroundings.
Many existing grave rights on the cemetery, once sold as “of infinite duration” helped the committee in their efforts. The judge ordained that these grave rights were to be respected and the city had to drop their plans for demolition. In 1978 the Foundation became the owner for a symbolic sum of 1 Dutch guilder, as long as the church and annexes would be restored and preserved.
The landscape around this lovely little church and a few surrounding houses has changed drastically over time, but it still stands proud today, preserving the village looks.
There is a bicycle lane now where once the old railroad track ran. The Molenwerf, once the square in front of the old railroad station, is now a stretch of grass. Since 2005 it has a statue called “De verdwenen boer” (The disappeared farmer) made by Karel Gomes, in honor of the farmers who were expropriated for all the city expansions.
Photo Gallery Old Sloterdijk (May 2022)
To the east of the the old village of Sloterdijk is the allotment park Sloterdijkermeer, which I will cover in a future blog post.
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