Little Bits of History

Amstel River

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 27, 2015
Amsterdam from the air*

Amsterdam from the air*

October 27, 1275: An official document with this date remains and is the first time the word Aemstelredamme (Amsterdam) is used. There had been terrible floods in 1170 and 1173 so the locals built a bridge over a the river Amstel. They also built a dam across the river which gives rise to the name of the village. The document in question gave residents of the village exemption from paying the toll to cross the bridge and was granted in the County of Holland by Count Floris V. The inhabitants not only were permitted to cross their local bridge without paying, but also any toll bridges throughout the County. They could also use the locks without charge. The people who were exempted were the “people living near Amestelledamme. By 1327 the name had changed to Aemsterdam.

Today, Amsterdam is both the capital city and the most populous city in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is mandated as the capital via the Constitution of the Netherlands but the Dutch government actually works out of The Hague. The city grew up from the small fishing village which survived flooding and built the dam across the river in the 12th century. During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, It was one of the most important ports in the world. It was during this time the city became a center for both finance and diamonds. It was also during this time that the feature of the city which is most recognizable was constructed.

City planning during the 1600s called for a method to control the waters as well as house a growing population. The plan called for four main concentric half-circles along with bridges to span them. They were to have their ends resting in the IJ Bay. Three of the canals were developed for residential purposes. The Herengracht or ‘’Patricians’ Canal’’, Keizersgracht or ‘’Emperor’s Canal’’, and Prinsengracht or ‘’Prince’s Canal’’ were for the growing number of immigrants. The Singelgracht was the fourth and outer canal and was used for both defense and water management. The Jordaan quarter was planned to facilitate the transportation of goods. There are over 60 miles of canals and about 90 islands created by the surrounding water. To ease movement, there were about 1,500 bridges. The Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, Herengracht and Jordaan became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

Amsterdam is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. There are over 4.6 million international visitors and 16 million day visitors who come each year. The city has many museums, including one for Van Gogh and another for Rembrandt. The Anne Frank House is there, as is the Hermitage Amsterdam. There are many historic buildings including awe-inspiring churches from Oude Kerk (1306) to more modern edifices. There are concert halls, diamond factories, open air markets, and breweries. There are also several red-light districts within the city which were designed areas for legalized prostitution and are huge tourist attractions. Today, the Mayor of the city is Eberhard van der Laan.

Amsterdam has more than 150 canals and 1,250 bridges, but it never seems crowded, nor bent and bitter from fleecing the tourist. – Julie Burchill

My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them. – Terry Pratchett

I think Amsterdam is to Holland what New York is to America in a sense. It’s a metropolis, so it’s representative of Holland, but only a part of it – you know, it’s more extreme, there’s more happening, it’s more liberal and more daring than the countryside in Holland is. – Anton Corbijn

Amsterdam was a great surprise to me. I had always thought of Venice as the city of canals; it had never entered my mind that I should find similar conditions in a Dutch town. – James Weldon Johnson

Also on this day: Fancy Dry Goods Store – In 1858, Macy opened his first NYC store.
Underground – In 1904, the first section of the New York City subway opened.
Paris Riots – In 2005, riots broke out in Paris.
Single – In 1936, Wallis Simpson was divorced.
Sacrificial Lamb – In 1553, Michael Servetus was burned at the stake.



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