On Prins Hendrikkade 94-95 you can find the Schreierstoren, a defense tower built around 1487 as part of the medieval city wall. This tower stood at the sharp corner of the city wall, from Geldersekade (Guelderian Quay) in the direction of the Saint Anthony’s Gate (the current Weigh House). From here Henry Hudson set sail in 1609 to Northern America, which also led to the discovery of the island of Manhattan.
The tower lost its defense function at the end of the 16th century with another city expansion, but it was spared when the city wall was demolished — it is the last completely preserved tower from the medieval city wall. In the quay wall of the Geldersekade at number 18 you can see a few large sandstone blocks, remnants of the old wall. The tower, restored in 1966, still has the original wooden skeleton as well as two of the oldest convent windows in Amsterdam.
It later housed the Tinsmith’s Guild until 1683 and still later the harbour master, who moved to the Havengebouw on De Ruyterkade in 1960. Currently the tower is a café. Nautical bookstore L.J. Harri was located here on the top floors from 1983 until 2022. That nautical store (from 1730) had been in Amsterdam since 1841 — they moved to Rotterdam in December 2021.
Above the entrance on the Prins Hendrikkade is a plaque commemorating the first voyage to the East Indies in 1595 by Cornelis Houtman, four ships with in Latin the words Navigare Necesse Est (Sailing Is Necessary).
The Myth of the Weepers’ Tower
Many invented stories go around, repeated by many guides, where Schreierstoren is incorrectly translated as Weepers’ Tower or Crying Tower — allegedly this was the spot where weeping women waved goodbye to their husbands going off to sea. The story is partly fueled by a (very much eroded) plaque above the street name sign on the right hand side of the tower, which shows a woman looking away while pointing at a ship on the waves, with the text “Scrayerhouck 1569”.
1569 was a very unfortunate year for Amsterdam: the Eighty Years War with Spain (1568-1648) had just started, the fleet was captured by the Beggars (Amsterdam only joined the revolt later) and the Spanish Duke of Alba was about the introduce the hated Tenth Penny (a 10% tax on all sales).
So this was probably an allegory referring to the year, based on the pronunciation, by one of the Chambers of Rhetoric (Dutch: Rederijkerskamers), dramatic societies in the Low Countries. Actually “Scrayershoucktoren” means “sharp corner tower”, not “weepers’ tower”. Later the name was shortened to Schreierstoren, leaving out houck (corner), hence the confusion and the myth — sharp (scray) and weep (schrei) had the same pronunciation in old Dutch.
Henry Hudson & Manhattan
English seafarer Henry Hudson (1560-1611) left on the ship Halve Maen (Half Moon) from the Amsterdam harbour on April 4, 1609. This was his third voyage, paid for by the VOC (Dutch East India Company), in an attempt to discover a northeastern passageway to Asia. But around Nova Zembla the ice turned out to be so bad that protests from his crew grew. Hudson then decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean looking for a passage through North America to the Pacific Ocean.
In September 1609 he explored the region around the modern New York metropolitan area, sailing up the Hudson River (later named after him). His trade with natives around Albany laid the foundation for Dutch colonization of the region. New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island became the capital of New Netherland in 1625. A plaque on the Schreierstoren, placed in 1927 on initiative of the Greenwich Village Historical Society from New York, commemorates his departure from here. In 1959 a second smaller plaque was placed to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage. A brick from the Schreierstoren is attached to the façade of the Tribune Tower in Chicago.
Schreierstoren Gallery (July 2022)
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