Gate of the original Schouwburg, Keizersgracht, Amsterdam

The Dylan at Keizersgracht 384

At Keizers­gracht 384 you can find Hotel The Dylan and Restaurant Vinkeles. The entrance gate is from 1638 and belonged to the first Amster­damse Schouw­burg (Amsterdam Municipal Theater), constructed in 1617 and designed by Jacob van Campen. The gate and building are a national monument. Their architect, Jacob van Campen, later also designed the Amsterdam City Hall (now Royal Palace) on Dam square, built between 1648 and 1665.

Entrance gate from 1638 of the original Amsterdamse Schouwburg, Amsterdam

Entrance gate from 1638 of the original Amster­damse Schouw­burg from 1617, designed by architect Jacob van Campen.
Today it houses Hotel The Dylan and Restaurant Vinkeles (May 2021).

The cartouche above the gate reads, in old Dutch spelling, Schouburg (Theater). The quote below it is by Dutch poet and play­wright Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679).

The world is a theater stage,
each play their role and get their share

There is an unmistakeable similarity with Shakespeare’s famous lines from his 1599 play As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
and one man in his time plays many parts

Old Municipal Theater on Keizersgracht, Amsterdam, detail of a map from 1737 by Gerrit de Broen

Under the lens the old Theater on a map from 1737 by Gerrit de Broen (Allard Pierson Museum – Special Collections UvA).

The Old Amsterdam Municipal Theater

In 1617 the three lots for the Schouw­burg were secured and the build of the first (wooden) city theater started. In 1638 it was replaced by a brick building, with a new gate. The building was enlarged in 1664 and again in 1765, making it twice as big. After 1665 the theater went almost all the way to the Prinsen­gracht.

The Amsterdam theater was modeled after the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza (northern Italy) by Dutch architect Philips Vingboons (1607-1678). Vingboons designed many city palaces in Classicist style in Amster­dam during the Golden Age. A neigh­boring garden, bought by Coster in 1620, was used as a foyer during breaks. After another enlargement in 1765 the theater was called Nieuwe Schouw­burg (New Theater) and admission prices were raised.

Keizersgracht theater, Amsterdam, before the fire in 1772, drawing by Willem Writs

Keizers­gracht theater, before the fire in 1772, seen from the stage. Drawing by Willem Writs (Stadsarchief Amsterdam).

Fire & Replacement

The old theater was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1772, only the entrance gate and the adjacent house remained. Careless doubling of the stage lighting — all candles and oil lamps — caused the stage and decor to catch fire. The resulting flames, which went to a full blaze in less than 15 minutes, damaged 22 houses around the theater and the fire was so big that it could be seen from The Hague, Utrecht and the island of Texel in the north. Eighteen people were killed, including some wealthy Amsterdam citizens like Mrs. Texeira de Mattos, who was said to have worn jewelry that night worth 20,000 guilders (equivalent to roughly $178,000 now).

In 1774 a new (wooden at first) Municipal Theater at Leidse­plein replaced the burned down theater at Keizers­gracht 384. That new Leidse­plein theater also burned down in February 1890 — the current brick Stads­schouwburg on Leidse­plein dates from 1894.

Fire in the old Amsterdam Municipal Theater in 1772, engraving by Noach van der Meer

The fire which destroyed the old Amsterdam Municipal Theater on 11 May 1772, seen from the Keizers­gracht.
Engraving by Noach van der Meer (Rijksmuseum).

Church & Theater, a Difficult Coexistence

Amsterdam physician and playwright Samuel Coster was dedicated to the theater. Together with writer Gerbrand Adriaens­zoon Bredero (1585-1618) he founded an academy in 1617 in Italian style, promoting theater and science for the people. The owners of the property, the Calvinist regents of the Burger­wees­huis and the Oude Man­huis, financed the build. In exchange they would receive one-third of the net profits, which amounted to around ƒ10,000 ($85,000) a year.

Sculpture on the wall of the courtyard of Hotel The Dylan, Keizersgracht 384, Amsterdam

Sculpture on the wall of the courtyard (January 2022).

The Calvinist church board soon complained to the mayor about the academic lessons given by non-protestants (Mennonites) and about the lack of religious fervor and decency in the plays, which they considered to not be edifying enough. The protection of P.C. Hooft (1581–1647), writer himself and bailiff of Muiden, kept them at bay for a while. But in 1622 the theater management was handed over to the regents of the godhouses, to decide on expenses, costumes and decors. The church board even tried its best to prevent the opening play — Gijsbreght van Aemstel — from being performed at the opening of the new brick theater in 1638, but to no avail.

View of the courtyard of Hotel The Dylan, Keizersgracht 384, Amsterdam

View of the courtyard of Hotel The Dylan (January 2022).

From Charity to Hotel

After the 1772 fire the Calvinists argued that it was a sign from God to immediately end their involvement in this godless institution. They decided to sell the terrain with the ruins on it. So this terrain, previously owned by the Burger­weeshuis (Citizen’s Orphanage) and the Oude Manhuis (Old Men’s House) from 1622 until 1772, was sold to the RCOAK, the Catholic Oude Armen­kantoor (Office for the Old Poor), a charity institution. They built their office inside the court­yard in the restored house of the former theater bar­tender, with a new wing added in 1773.

Behind the house was a small square with a gate in the back. Across from that was the bakery of the institute since 1787, operational until 1811, where the bread was baked to give to the poor. Thousands of poor Catholic Amsterdammers received support from the RCOAK. They were handed bread, peat, pearl barley, peas and a little money every week. These poor people did not enter through the main gate on the Keizers­gracht though, but through a small entrance on the Prinsen­gracht. In 2001 the RCOAK moved to the court­yard from 1618 “Liefde Is Het Fondament” (Love Is The Foundation) at Keizers­gracht 334-346, a bit further up the canal. That courtyard, also known as the Claes Reyniersz­hofje, is a municipal monument.

Entrance of Hotel The Dylan, Amsterdam, inside the courtyard

Entrance of Hotel The Dylan, inside the courtyard (January 2022).

The old buildings behind the gate were restored in the 1970s and 1980s, the bakery ovens found preserved during construction in 1975. From 1999-2005 this was Blakes Hotel, since 2005 it houses Hotel The Dylan (with Bar Brasserie Occo) and Restaurant Vinkeles, located in the old bakery. The hotel was named after Welsh writer Dylan Thomas (1914-1953).

Hotel The Dylan, Amsterdam, seen from the uneven side of the Keizersgracht

Hotel The Dylan, seen from the uneven side of the Keizers­gracht (January 2022).

View of the Keizersgracht through the gate of Hotel The Dylan, Amsterdam

View of the Keizers­gracht through the gate of Hotel The Dylan (January 2022).

Website Hotel The Dylan:

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