The Lost City: The cannons and ammunition for the navy were previously on display at the Maritime Museum

In the program The lost city we go to a different place in Amsterdam every time to see how it has changed over time. This time we are trying to get a picture of the former Zeemagazijn from the Admiralty in Amsterdam. Today, the Maritime Museum is housed in this impressive building.

Cannons like this were stored in the naval warehouse – NH

The Maritime Museum has one of the largest and most important maritime collections in the world. But the monumental building from 1656 was once intended as a warehouse for the Admiralty of Amsterdam. Here were cannons (so called cannons in the navy), ammunition, sails, ropes, anchors, basically everything it took to make a ship go. At that time, in addition to those in Amsterdam, there were also admiralties in Rotterdam, Harlingen, Middelburg and Noordkop (Hoorn and Enkhuizen). Together they formed the navy of the state.


Havpakhuset’s construction plans clearly show the building’s sober, tight, classicist style. According to Anton Wegman, this was “very innovative and extremely efficient. A very massive building because it also had to be able to carry heavy loads. Due to the storage of bullets and gunpowder, there was also a good fire system. Water was collected on the roof. Through a pipe system for the cellars where it was stored. “

The map of Lands Zeemagazijn also clearly shows that it is built in a square shape. According to Wegman, it is “a very rational design. Noorderkerk and Oosterkerk in Amsterdam also have such a square plan, mathematically conceived. Instead of the Gothic construction that was before.” Due to the square design, the exit could be quickly reached from any point.


Together with curator Tim Streefkerk, we arrived at the museum’s central hall: a square with galleries. Anchors and cannons have previously been stored here. Today, the farm is covered, but that has only happened since the renovation in 2011. “There is a lot of rhythm in the design,” says Streefkerk. “It exudes calm and order. And it fits very well with the classicist style that was hip in the republic at the time. The town hall on Dam Square, now the Palace, exudes the same kind of calm.”


In the museum, Streefkerk shows a cannon, of which so many have been stored in the past, and a painting by Reinier Nooms gives us a good impression of the activities around the sea storage. Next to the warehouse was a shipyard where the ships were built and repaired. The ships were partially boarded in the water.

Also special are the traces of the great fire of 1791. A large part of the building then went up in flames. Only the stone parts were left. The fire even spread to the ships that lay in front of the warehouse. There was one big fire. The building was to be completely renovated. A few years earlier, there had been significant cuts to the once progressive fire facilities. So it’s a matter of prioritizing wrong.


The back of the building on IJ, now the northern exit, was the most important and most ostentatious entrance of the seventeenth century. Here came the ships next door. Sometimes a ship was too deep to reach the quay and had to be supplied from the water with a barge. “Incidentally, the part of IJ and Pampus became so shallow,” adds Anton Wegman, “that the warships sometimes traveled to Texel without the cannons. They were then delivered with smaller ships.”

“We are happy that the building still has a maritime function. For the same money, it had become an apartment complex. You should not think about that ….”

Anton wegman, researcher shipping museum
Neptune is asked in the tympanum for a safe journey – NH

According to Tim Streefkerk, the triangular tympanum above the northern entrance carries a clear message about the navy. “Neptune, in the middle, is asked by the Admiralty, personified by a woman with a three-fork, for safe navigation and a prosperous future.”

Outside you can also clearly see that the country’s Zeemagazijn is built on an island, Kattenburg.

In the early seventeenth century, Amsterdam grew very fast. Land is being reclaimed in various places. Kattenburg was a new island, as were Oostenburg and Wittenburg. The Admiralty quickly found a place on Kattenburg to build a warehouse and a quay.

To the left in the picture the Navy’s Palace, to the right the Maritime Museum – Amsterdam City Archives


In old photos you can see another large building next to the naval warehouse, the Navy’s Palace, but it is no longer there. The building was demolished due to the construction of the IJ tunnel.

Streefkerk: “It was a building from the nineteenth century. It is connected with the fact that from that time we got another naval defense: the Royal Navy. The republic ceased to exist, and so did the Admiralty. The navy took a very large part of the Admiralty’s infrastructure. The naval magazine became the navy’s warehouse in 1815. The yard behind it became a naval shipyard. After the navy’s departure, the building was made suitable as a maritime museum.

“We are pleased that it still has the maritime function,” says Anton Wegman. “For the same money, it would have been an apartment complex. You don’t have to think about that.”

See Hir for several episodes of The Disappeared City.

Download the app

. Stay informed about news from your region, download the free NH News app via App store or the Google Play Store

Leave a Comment