The weaver houses on Vijzelgracht 20-26 were built between 1670 and 1671. Designed by architect Philips Vingboons (1607–1678) they contain a cellar, a first floor, in the back a kitchen with basement, and an attic. They were restored in 2002 and again in 2016 after a metro construction mishap. The shop at the corner at number 20 has a nice storefront from the 19th century.
The Vijzelgracht (Mortar Canal) dates from the 1658 expansion of Amsterdam, the former canal was filled in in 1933. Both the Vijzelstraat and the Vijzelgracht were probably named after Cornelis and Jan Vijselaar, who lived here in the 17th century. The area around the Vijzelgracht was called Noortse Bos (Norwegian Forest) back then, most likely because of the huge amount of Scandinavian pine trees used as foundation piles and building material for the houses.
The houses on Vijzelgracht 20-26 were built for wool combers, spinners and weavers — initially mostly fled French Huguenots. In 1670 the city wanted to revive the ailing textile industry and gave land to three city charities to build houses on and thus generate income. The area had more than 200 weaver houses at that time. Because of the light (large windows) the looms were on the first floor, the spinners worked in the basement. The corner houses were larger and served as a store, pub, baker’s or butcher’s.
Special street numbers with letters in front of them showed which charity was the owner — WH stood for Weeshuis (Citizen’s Orphanage), L for Leprozenhuis (Leper Hospital), GH for Gasthuis (City Hospital). Many of these weaver houses — with their exactly square fronts — have disappeared since the 17th century, but a few survive in thearea. The weaver houses are national monuments.
In September 2018, while digging the Vijzelgracht metro station, a hole in a construction wall at 14 meter (46 ft) depth flushed the foundation layer from under the Weaver Houses, making them subside a good 23 centimers (9 inch). Numbers 24 and 26 were the most heavily damaged. The city then purchased the buildings, temporarily safeguarded them, jacked them up and renewed their foundation — first the four weaver houses, then followed by the numbers 24 and 26.
The metro North-South line was riddled with problems because of the soggy soil and a layer of heavy, sticky clay. Cost went from an initial 1.46 billion Euros to well over 3 billion Euros ($ 3.64 billion) and the end date went from 2011 to 2017. The Vijzelgracht metro station finally opened in July 2018 — after 15 years of construction horror — with the north side entrance near Maison Descartes (the former Walen Weeshuis or Walloon Orphanage). From 1933 until 2016 the Maison Descartes housed the Institut Français des Pays-Bas, until the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to dissolve it. The pit for the metro was 30 meters (98 ft) deep, the metro station lies at a depth of 26 meters (85 ft).
From 1949 until 1994 Vijzelgracht 20 was home to a very famous butcher, Lo (Lodewijk) Cohen Rodrigues (1918-1998). After a vacation in the French Dordogne in 1958 he took the secrets and art of creating paté home with him, which made his shop famous for his Bergerac and Cornwine paté, even internationally. He counted many famous Amsterdammers among his loyal customers.
Ramses Shaffy (1933-2009), a popular Dutch-French singer and actor, lived at the Derde Weteringdwarsstraat 42hs and was a neighbour and customer of butcher Rodrigues. The Vijzelgracht metro station has a neon portrait of Shaffy, composed of the interwoven lifelines of 28 persons who were important in his life, displayed as map lines of a metro (by Dutch artist Marjan Laaper).
Since October 2019 the corner shop at Vijzelgracht 20 is home to Boulangerie Noé, bakers and pâtissiers, who also have a shop in Aix-en-Provence, in the area so loved by Vincent van Gogh. Their formula has proved quite succesful and now they have a main bakery in the Schaafstraat (Amsterdam-Noord) and shops on the Bloemgracht 2 (Jordaan) and Gustav Mahlerlaan 399 (Zuidas) as well. For their delicious traditional French bread and pastries, they use organic-certified products and fair trade as a guide. They also serve sandwiches and have coffee, tea and hot chocolate to accompany their creations. Well worth a visit and taste!
Website Noé: https://www.boulangerienoe.nl/
Subterranean Parking & Bridges
The construction disturbances in the area have not quite finished yet. A planned automated underground car park facility for 270 cars of area residents is to be built on an empty space on top of the subway station. The build (which is estimated to take one year) has already started in April 2021. The renewal of the bridges in the Vijzelstraat should finish by the end of 2021.
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