A lot of people arrive in Amsterdam at the central station. If you go to your hotel you will probably end up at the Damrak, one of the busiest streets in Amsterdam. A street with a lot of sounds, billboards which advertise things like souvenirshops, a sexmuseum, fastfood restaurants, a change-office, hotels and a lot more. And a lot of bikes everywhere, parked ones and bikes lying on the ground. And because it is the entry of the town there are a lot of people. All’n all it is not a very pretty street. To say the least. (but don’t let it scare you, there are a lot of nice and calm places in town). More then a hundred years ago there was a plan for this street that looked completely different( see the article about the Damrak).
If you go back to the station, you can see for yourself that the square in front of the station is quite messy. A lot of people, many trams and no clear signs where to walk (they are still working to improve things). You really have to keep your eyes open to walk safely from one place to another.
Even the central station once was the subject of a big debate. The state thought it was important for Amsterdam to have a central station. A place where people started their trip to various parts of the country and Europe and where cargo from different ships could be reloaded into trains and tranported to various city’s in the Netherlands and abroad. The community of Amsterdam agreed with this idea but they had a different place in mind for this station. The state wanted to build the station where the river Amstel and IJ ( a big water that was connected to the Zuiderzee, a real sea before the construction of the Afsluitdijk) met and by doing so make an end to the open view people had on the water and the seaships. The community of Amsterdam wanted to build the station more in the centre of town. Another objection was that islands had to be made in the IJ to make space for the station and that by doing so the water would become too narrow for big ships. In the end the state won and the construction was started in 1882. In 1889 the station was open for the public.
The architect of the station is the same person who planned the Rijksmuseum, the biggest museum in the Netherlands. Pierre Cuypers was born in Roermond, in the southern province of Limburg, in 1827 and died in 1921. He was a catholic and build a lot of churches in Amsterdam and in other places in the Netherlands. Critics said that the central station looked like a ‘french monastery’ and the Rijksmuseum like an ‘episcopal palace’.
The reliefs were all an idea of Cuypers. He was not ordered to make them. The relief on the left was done by Jean François Vermeylen an artist born in Werchter ( a place at present in Belgium). In the middle are represented ‘landbouw’ (agriculture), ‘veeteelt’ (cattle breeding) and ‘handel’ (trade).Below you can see the words’ ‘electriciteit’ (electricity), ‘nijverheid’ (industry) and ‘stoom’ (steam). The last word is referring to transportation and its influence on society. Above you can see the gods Apollo, Ceres and Vulcanus.
As you can see on the picture the building is still being renovated and will look nice again next year.
24th of June 2017
Rebel,Ben and Vermeer, Gerrit, ‘Amsterdam en haar problematische verhouding met het Centraal Station’ in: 100ste jaarboek van het genootschap Amstelodamum, Amsterdam 2008, page 10-45.
Het Centraal Station, De geest van omverwerping 1851-1876. De Rooy, Piet. Geschiedenis van Amsterdam deel III, Amsterdam 2006.
Amsterdam, een geschiedenis. Knegtmans, Peter Jan. Amsterdam 2011, page 289.