That hotel and cafe with the dignified name Palais Royal was an initiative of Eduard Meijer, the former chef of the Poolsche Koffiehuis (later Hotel Polen), between Kalverstraat and Rokin. He had once started working there as a twelve-year-old boy, and now he was opening his own catering business in an equally prominent location. On August 4, 1877, a very proud Meijer reported in chocolate letters to the newspaper audience that his business started in a renovated building on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal, at the corner of the new Paleisstraat on the site of the disappearing Stilsteeg. He took the hotel name from the royal palace opposite, which his guests looked out on.
As the son of the popular street singer Kees Meijer, alias Meijer de Rijmer, he understood how to lure customers: with stunts and entertainment. In 1879, for example, he had ‘Holden’s biggest mirror’ (7 by 3.5 meters) placed in his hotel, and he opened a billiard room with three billiard tables. Over the years, Eduard Meijer bought more and more neighboring properties in order to comfortably accommodate his growing clientele. After the first renovation in 1880 by the renowned architect Isaac Gosschalk, the hotel had forty guest rooms and lounges, bathrooms and toilets, and rooms for dinners, billiards and conversation. Just in time for the 1883 World’s Fair, Meijer temporarily increased the number of rooms to 65 with five beds per room. room.
Cheap daytime snack
In the dining room there was room for more than a hundred people, who could order à la carte dishes, a daily special or sit down to the even cheaper table d’hote. The cheap daily snack and the café were grist to the mill of journalists and editors of the daily press who worked in the area, especially after Nieuwezijd’s Voorburgwal was closed in 1883. Partly because of the proximity of the telegraph and post office, correspondents from other towns wrote their pieces in the Palais Royal. Between four and six in the afternoon, when the provincial and city editions were printed, the ‘journalists’ table’ was very busy. For entertainment, newspaper writers of all persuasions played a game of cross dominoes with minimal financial stakes.
Due to the regular journalistic clientele and the increasing traffic of foreigners to Amsterdam, Meijer had to expand again in 1896. This time it was at the expense of Matthijs J. Portielje’s neighboring printing house. He had the architect Gerrit van Arkel design a new hotel building with roof terraces and even a large dome in the middle. In 1901, Meijer formed a limited company to secure financing and because of a problem with the liquor license. Three years later he tripped from the balcony of the first-floor dining room: he made an unfortunate landing on the pavement in Nieuwezijd’s Voorburgwal and died in hospital from his injuries.
His successors as operators were his sporty sons: Eduard junior – also Dutch champion in long-distance swimming and a legendary rescue swimmer in the Amsterdam canals – and August Meijer, who also swims quite well. The brothers, also swimming in money thanks to external financiers, had Van Arkel’s hotel building replaced by new buildings of colossal dimensions, inspired by American architecture.
With the lightning-quick construction of the new building in 1905, the number of guest rooms shrank to forty, but the Palais Royal now had more hall space. Also impressive were the modern telephone, wake-up and fire alarm systems, as well as a large stove and the electric dishwasher. In the kitchen, the Swiss chef Rudolf Schardt, who had learned the trade in Paris and had been fired from the Hotel Krasnapolsky for unclear reasons, had the upper hand. Despite all the innovation, things went downhill for the Palais Royal. During the First World War, tourism to the capital largely came to a standstill. In 1921 they sold the property to the Dutch state, which wanted to build a postal giro office there. The journalists found shelter in the nearby Café Scheltema.
In 1924, the demolition of the block of flats between Nieuwezijds and Spuistraat and between Paleisstraat and Raadhuisstraat started. The Postgiro office, also known as the ‘Geldkantoor’, opened on 19 December 1927, designed by Joop Crouwel. In 1934, Rijk’s telephone exchange occupied the top floor, while a cigar shop on the corner below held the name ‘Palais Royal’ in honour. In 2000, an Albert Heijn supermarket was built on the ground floor with the stone stairs as seating for students, bums and tourists. Fifteen years later – after renovation to a design by Office Winhov – the W Hotel opened with approximately 230 rooms and a heated swimming pool on the roof. With this, this location regained its historic catering destination, all scribes are hard to find in the new ‘Luxury Boutique Hotel’.
This is an episode from the series of articles Here It Happened… from Our Amsterdam.
In the sweltering summer of 1912, chef Rudolf Schardt fired his pastry chef for unwelcome behavior ‘even in the kitchen’ towards a female employee. A week later, the chef felt ill after eating a plate of broad beans with bacon and died suddenly. According to a doctor, traces of arsenic were found in the cook’s vomit and feces. The police questioned the fired pastry chef and the female employee. The newspapers loved the story. However, the laboratory researchers turned out to have made a mistake. In a letter to the editor, a concerned doctor refuted the arsenic story: The clinical picture was more like food poisoning. All in all, not the best advertisement for the hotel’s restaurant.