Two out of the ordinary houses in chalet style on Reguliersgracht with an interesting history help to shed some light on the important work of contractors in Amsterdam’s building history. While the architects and their often wealthy clients are usually listed when discussing historical buildings, the contractors who did the actual building work often go unmentioned.
Initially these contractors were carpenters and masons, simply accepting execution of a certain job for a fixed price. During the 19th century the contractors became more important as an intermediary between client and architect — they organized the planning, buying and transport of materials, often even creating building plans. Most architects were not too happy with the growing involvement and responsibilities of the contractors. It wasn’t until 1895 that contractors started their own union to promote their own interests, the Nederlandsche Aannemersbond (Dutch Contractors Union).
Zeeger Deenik & Son
In 1813 foreman Zeeger Deenik (1782-1871) started a carpenter’s workshop (timmermans-affaire) together with C. Lockhorst at Keizersgracht 718. They later moved to Kerkstraat 151 near Spiegelstraat, where their cooperation ended in 1819. In 1820 Deenik rented a workshop at Reguliersgracht 57 where he continued his business, joined by his son in 1837.
The firm executed designs by many top architects of the time, but also designed buildings themselves. In 1911 they bought a lot at Kerkstraat 299 as a factory for their woodworking machinery. Zeeger Deenik’s firm left the house in 1919 and around 1970 they moved to Diemen. Their firm lasted for six generations, but was bankrupted in 1979.
Up until around 1860 the contrators mostly handled the maintenance and remodeling of homes — the economic decline during the French occupation meant very few new houses got built. Popular changes during that period were the addition of an extra floor on top, the changing of the gable and the removal of the doorstep and basement. In slack building times the firm also handled insurance and realtor activities.
When Amsterdam started to grow explosively during the 19th century, the firm Deenik & Son expanded around 1870 and their workshop soon became too small. Thus Deenik bought the adjacent number 59 — in 1879 he asked architect Isaac Gosschalk to unite the numbers 57 and 59 and create a new workshop and home there. Three years later he also bought Reguliersgracht 63 and had Gosschalk design a new office and home there as well.
The 0.53 km (580 yd) long Reguliersgracht (Regulars Canal) is a traverse canal, connecting Herengracht (at nr. 534) with Lijnbaansgracht (at nr. 393), crossing Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht. The canal was dug between 1658 and 1664, during Amsterdam’s Fourth Expansion. It was named after the Regulars convent, which stood outside of the Regular’s Gate between 1394 and 1532, more or less where now Utrechtsestraat crosses Keizersgracht.
The house at Reguliersgracht 57, built around 1879, is very different from the surrounding houses, done in German medieval fashion with Neo-Renaissance elements. It has a wooden top façade with overhang and a deviating color scheme. The façade unites wood, brick and fancy plasterwork.
This chalet-style house with Queen Anne elements at Reguliersgracht 63, built in 1882, was the home and office for master carpenter and contractor Zeeger Deenik (1841-1906), third generation head of the firm, who moved in with his family in 1883. The house was created to serve more or less as a business card for the various disciplines of his craft, both through the exterior and the rich interior. This building replaced an earlier one from 1671, which had belonged to another carpenter, Andries Claesz, using the existing 17th century foundations and outer walls.
The house consists of a front and back house, with a stairway between them. The kitchen is in the back, the attic was where the maid lived. The woodwork on the façade and the stained glass windows are worth a closer look — the ornate facade is one of the few buildings in Amsterdam to combine brick, stone and wood. The house became a showroom for men’s clothing in 1934, was bought by Stadsherstel (City Restoration) in 1974 and restored in 2013. Now it’s still a home annex office.
In 1972 Deenik & Zoon wanted to demolish Reguliersgracht 63, to unite it with their other lots at Reguliersgracht 57-59 and Kerkstraat 323-325, but fortunately the city prevented that. A mantelpiece on the second floor has the saying on it “Effe is slecht treffe” (You can’t please everyone). The interior has quite a few Freemasonry elements (carpenter Deenik and architect Gosschalk were both Freemasons). The house can’t be visited (it is a private residence), but it has one of the best preserved 19th century interiors and has been a national monument since 1980. Now it houses Rescura Bleijenberg, who did the excellent restoration.
Architect Isaac Gosschalk
Architect Isaac Gosschalk (1838-1907), who designed both buildings for Deenik, was one of the famous architects of his time: he designed many buildings in Amsterdam, like the Groote Club on Dam square (1872, demolished in 1912), the Panorama building on Plantage Middenlaan (1880, demolished in 1935) and the Westergasfabriek (1883) on Haarlemmerweg.
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