Architecture of Amsterdam: Het West-Indisch Huis (West Indies House)
History-savvy readers will recall that the Dutch West India Company held a trade monopoly in West Africa and the Americas in the 17th century. Today there still exist a number of so-called West-Indische Huizen across the country, erstwhile headquarters of the company's various chapters. But the West-Indisch Huis (West India House) on Herenmarkt, a compact square off the vibrant Haarlemmerstraat, is of special interest to Americans, especially to New Yorkers such as myself: it was here that, in 1625, the West India Company resolved to construct a fort on the island of Manhattan, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam - present-day New York.
A maroon-colored placard in the courtyard commemorates both this historic decision as well as the subsequent centuries of Dutch-American friendship that followed; on the same note, the John Adams Institute, whose mission is to facilitate cultural relations between the two countries, is now located at this address.
Much of the house was devastated in a fire in 1975; in the course of its extensive restoration, a fountain with a bronze statue of Peter Stuyvesant, last Director-General of the colony of New Netherland, was erected in the courtyard to further emphasize the historic events that took place inside. While the house is closed to the public, its handsome facade is worth a few moments of admiration, and its peaceful courtyard offers a welcome respite from busy Haarlemmerstraat.
West-Indisch Huis Visitor Information
- Address: Herenmarkt 99
1013 EC Amsterdam
Phone: +31 (0)20 625 7528
Please note that the West-Indisch Huis is not typically open to the public.
- Location: Haarlemmerbuurt, the area due southwest of Central Station
- Directions: From Amsterdam Central Station, cross Stationsplein to Prins Hendrikskade, and head west until the Singel (canal); turn left at the Singel, then right onto Nieuwendijk, which turns into Haarlemmerstraat.