Westerdok, Amsterdam

Westerdok & Westerdokseiland

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).

Westerdok, Amsterdam, seen in the direction of Realeneiland

Westerdok, looking towards Realen­eiland, one of the Western Islands (March 2022).

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.

Westerdok, Amsterdam, from the south at Westerdokskade in northern direction

Westerdok, seen from the south end at Wester­doks­kade in northern direction (March 2022).

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.

Western Islands and Westerdoksdijk, Amsterdam, on a map from 1867

The Western Islands and the Wester­doks­dijk on a map from 1867. The Wester­doks­eiland had not been created yet.

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.

Aerial view of Westerdokseiland, Westerdok and Western Islands, Amsterdam

Aerial view of Wester­doks­eiland, Wester­dok and Western Islands, photo by Doriann Kransberg, 2009. Top left Prinsen­gracht, bottom right the Stenen Hoofd, a pier from 1905 created for ships of the Holland-Amerika Lijn (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

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.

View from Westerdok along Winthorststraat to A'DAM Tower, Amsterdam

View from Wester­dok along Wint­horst­straat, through a gap in the IJdok pier the A’DAM Tower across the IJ (March 2022).

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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