The Lost City: Leidseplein is still the place of entertainment

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 on Leidseplein. The starting point for this broadcast is a drawing made by Gerrit Lamberts in 1817. This drawing still shows the old Schouwburg and Leidsepoort.

The old (wooden) theater on Leidseplein

In the depot of the city archives in Amsterdam, Harmen Snel finds a map showing Leidseplein, as Gerrit Lamberts drew it, that is, with the old Schouwburg and Leidsepoort. The latter was so called because one left the city through this gate and started the route to Leiden.

Snel: “By the way, it was not the first theater, because there had already been a theater since the 1930s. It was located on the Keizersgracht. But it had burned down and they were building a new one on Leidseplein.”

Map of Amsterdam, late eighteenth century – Amsterdam city archives

The City Archives currently has an exhibition dedicated to Lamberts’ drawings (exhibited until July 31). “Lamberts was active in the first half of the nineteenth century,” says Harmen Snel as we walk along the exhibited works with him. “If you are looking for pictures of Amsterdam from that time, you will come to Lamberts immediately. Every time.” The drawing of Leidseplein that we are looking for is also there.

Harmen Snel by the drawing Lamberts made by Leidseplein – NH

With Lamberts’ drawing in hand, yes, a copy of it, we stand in the same place with Floor van Spaendonck and Gijs Stork, but then two hundred years later. The loyal readers of The password know this duo well from the weekly city walks they take to the newspaper. They were also asked to take such a trip to the exhibition. It eventually became an entire book of walks based on Lamberts’ drawings.

This is where Lamberts made his drawing of Leidseplein – NH

Theater made of wood

“It was a wooden theater,” Floor says. “There were clocks in that Leidsepoort. To keep the silence in that theater, the walls were filled with sawdust. I don’t know if it worked at all.”

This theater dates from 1774 to a design by Jacob de Witte. It was a complete wooden construction and therefore got the nickname the wooden cabinet. The building was once built here as a temporary solution, but a hundred years later it still stands there. Then it was decided to thoroughly renovate the flammable building and provide it with stone exterior walls. But these interventions did not prevent the theater from going up in flames in 1890. There were no casualties. But the entire archive, library, costumes and scenery were lost. Four years later, the current city theater was built.

The wooden cabinet got a front made of stone – Amsterdam City Archives


The drawing by Gerrit Lamberts also shows a kind of tent. Here was a panorama of the Battle of Waterloo. Shortly before, in 1815, Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo by troops from England, Hanover, Prussia and the Netherlands. Waterloo was then a city in southern Holland. Our country had been occupied by the French until 1814.

The view of Amsterdam was another topic displayed in the Panorama building. Lamberts’ drawing shows the view of Amsterdam from Haringpakkerstoren, near the station.


One would think that Lamberts would be shocked if he could see how Leidseplein has changed, but according to Gijs Stolk this is not the case: “Lamberts loved the changing city very much. He made a whole series of drawings of buildings that are by being demolished … Then he signs the construction site and the new building. I think he would have loved it. Also what’s going on behind this. ” Gijs points to the gaping hole in the square where Heinekenhoek used to be. The decay of the city after the Napoleonic era was also a favorite subject of the Lamberts.

Lamberts loved the changing city – NH

Of all the places in town where Floor and Gijs came after the book, Leidseplein is their favorite place.

Floor: “It’s a place where you know so much has changed, but it still feels like the place from back then. You still have the rides and the Schouwburg. Everything is different, but at the same time the basis of the previous structure is still very true. It’s still a lively place. “

See here for more sections of The lost city

This is the last part of this series. The next series can be seen from the end of October and will be about Haarlem.

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