The Westerdok (Western Dock) is both a water and a street, created in 1834 when, with the construction of the Westerdoksdam (Western Dock Dam) and later the Westerdokseiland (Western Dock Island), this part was separated from the open waters of the IJ. The now enclosed part of the water, not subject to ebb and flow anymore, was called Westerdok, accessible through the Westerdoksluis (Western Dock Locks).
To the south is the railway line, to the west Realeneiland and Bickerseiland. The Westerdoksdijk (Western Dock Dike) runs at the outside along the IJ, the enlarged Westerdokseiland was later filled with big new apartment blocks. The inner side looks across the water to two of the Western Islands: Bickerseiland and Realeneiland. These days the Westerdok also functions as a marina.
A Little History of the Westerdokseiland
The Westerdoksdijk was created in 1834 to prevent the silting up of the waterways around the Western Islands. To the north and west of the Western Islands was a public park and a cemetery (Westerbegraafplaats), both have now disappeared. Top right on the map below from 1867, across the water of the IJ in Amsterdam-Noord, you can see the Galgenveld (Gallows Field), where corpses of criminals were left hanging in the open air. Before the construction of the Westerdoksdijk, that field could be seen from the Galgenstraat (Gallows Street) on Prinseneiland and Bickerseiland, which explains the street name.
During the 19th century the dike became more and more an industrial area: quays, warehouses and large piers were created. Gradually land was added on both sides of the original dike. From the 1920s on the Westerdokseiland was mostly used as a railway yard, connected with the Amsterdam Central Station by a railroad bridge. The original dike became an island where employees of the harbour and railroad lived and worked.
In the 1960s and 1970s most harbour activity moved to the Westelijk Havengebied. Westerdokseiland was mostly abandoned and then inhabited by artists, city nomads, squatters and house boat owners. At the start of the 21st century many large apartment buildings were constructed here — unfortunately no one bothered to preserve the sight lines from the old city to the IJ, which totally deprived the Prinsengracht of its open view.
During the construction of offices and apartment buildings on the IJdok pier (on the southern end of the dike) a small gap was left to preserve the sight line from the city across the IJ. From 1911 until 2009 the IJdok held the Koloniaal Etablissement (now demolished), a big warehouse where once goods from the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) were stored, sampled and inspected. At the northern end of the Westerdokseiland, the Westerdoksdijk continues towards the Silodam, a former breakwater constructed at the end of the 19th century. It has two large grain silos on it (now converted into apartments).
Westerdok Photo Gallery (March 2022)
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