The Berenstraat (Bear’s Street) is probably named after the bear skin trade in this area, related to the tanneries which could be found in the adjacent Jordaan in the 17th century.
In the Berenstraat, at number 7, a Neo-Gothic building houses a nursery school named “Amsterdams Welvaren”. Above the door a gable stone depicts a sailing three-master.
Under the middle window on the first floor a gable stone showing a bear tied to a tree with a flower in his right paw. Discovered at the back of the building in 1949, it was moved to the front of the building after restoration. On top of the chimney a sailing ship in metal, added in 1864 with the current gable.
Seized by the English navy
The Dutch vessel Amsterdam’s Welvaren, on its voyage back from Curaçao (in the Caribbean Sea), was seized by the British navy in 1781, during the American Revolution. The English suspected the ship had transported weapons to the Americans. They started to escort the ship to an Irish port, but it was wrecked on the Irish coast before reaching the harbour. The insurance money was paid to the new English “owners”.
John Warder was a Quaker merchant from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who had arrived in England in 1776 to safeguard his family business during the American Revolution. In 1778 he met Ann Head (daughter from a Quaker family in Ipswich, England) and they married in 1779. The Warders lived in London after their marriage, and John intended to make England his permanent home.
John was one of the benificiaries of the insurance money, but as a Quaker he did not want to profit from a wartime incident. He handed his cut (1,800 Pound Sterling) to an administrator to invest in public funds and instructed them to find the original Dutch entitled party.
The English investment company then designated the now enlarged capital to be used for “a building with a useful service in the city of Amsterdam”. Thus, in 1828, the first Dutch nursery school was founded — with John Warder’s initials set in the door posts. Initially the school had 30 children of 2 to 6 years old, but in 1850 they already had more than 100 pupils. And soon many more such schools were founded throughout Amsterdam.
Big Bear and Little Bear
On the Keizersgracht 316, corner with the Berenstraat, Big Bear (Groote Beer) and Little Bear (Kleine Beer), built in 1935 and also a national monument. The building has 4 layers on the Keizersgracht and only three layers on the Berenstraat.
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