Near the entrance of the former Binnengasthuis (until 1981 the biggest inner city hospital, now part of the University of Amsterdam), you can find the famous “Huis aan de Drie Grachten” (House on Three Canals). Located on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal 249, Oudezijds Achterburgwal and the Grimburgwal, it is a 17th-century canal house in Dutch Renaissance style, with stepped gable crowns on each of the three façades.
The current house is from around 1609, but the oldest elements of the building stem from the 16th century. It has been home to many rich patrician families over the centuries. In the Middle Ages (14th century) there was an inn on this spot. The famous house was restored in 1909 to its original 17th-century state and renovated again in 2005. The house is a national monument, but, being a residential building, it cannot be visited.
The Velvet Rampart
On the Oudezijds Voorburgwal side of the building is an old stone streetname sign, which reads “Fluweelen Burgwal” (Velvet Rampart), the nickname for this part of the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, south of the the Damstraat. That name can be found in newspapers and notary documents from the 18th century, but it was last seen used around 1810.
Not So Rich After 1620
The name Velvet Rampart is usually explained by stating that the people who lived in this area were rich enough to dress in velvet clothing. This was true from after 1578 (the Protestant Alteration) until roughly around 1620. Tax documents from 1742 show that the Fluweelen Burgwal, while mostly housing wine merchants, linen merchants, goldsmiths and pensioners, had a median income by that time not much higher than elsewhere. The real rich had already moved on to the Herengracht and Keizersgracht by then.
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