The area known as Marine Land has existed for more than 350 years. It was founded in 1655 and laid out as a huge ship-building yard on the island of Kattenburg. “This is historic ground” declared Willem Bijleveld, former director of the National Maritime Museum. “The Admiralty of Amsterdam, the forerunner of the Royal Marines, built here the great warships which protected the merchant ships of the VOC fleet”.
The Golden Age
In the Golden Age, Amsterdam was the largest harbour in the world. VOC ships sailed across the globe bringing herbs, spices and materials back to the Netherlands. These sea voyages could be very dangerous. The Admiralty’s warships, intended to protect the VOC fleet from pirates, were constructed in the Land’s Dock, the largest and most innovative shipyard in the country and one of the biggest employers in the city of Amsterdam.
“The ringing of the bell”
The Gatehouse with its old entrance is one of the few remaining 17th Century buildings in Marine Land. Hundreds of workers, carpenters, mast-makers and painters came to and fro daily through the gate. At that time, a bell hung above the gate and was rung to announce the start of work. The same bell can now be seen in the Maritime Museum.
The Marine Land’s Warehouse
The National Maritime Marine building also reminds us of the Golden Age as it was built in 1656 as the central storehouse for cannons, sails, flags and other equipment for the rapid furnishing of the new warships. The building was designed by Daniel Stalpaert, the architect who also designed the Royal Palace on the Dam square.
The end of the shipyard
Warships were built in the Land’s Dock for 260 years, from the wooden Ships of the Line for Michiel de Ruyter to the armoured cruisers for Queen Wilhelmina. In 1828 a dam or a dike was built between Amsterdam and the river IJ to protect the city from floods. As a consequence there was a lock, the Eastern Dock Lock, between the shipyard and the Zuiderzee which provided access to the North Sea. However, the entrance to the lock proved to be very narrow and too difficult for the bigger ships to navigate.
The building of the new railway station on the harbour front and the lane of railwaylines over the Eastern Dock Dike also resulted in the closure of the yard. It closed its gates in 1915.
The slipways in the yard have gone, but the memory of the Land’s shipyard must be cherished said Willem Bijleveld.
“Michiel de Ruyter made history when he sailed into battle from the yard and helped establish a strong Dutch Republic. This history you must always feel as you walk over the grounds”.
The southern part of the Marine Land, the so-called Voorwerf is the oldest part of the barracks and next to the Maritime Museum. This part is now at the disposal of the Project bureau. The Voorwerf still belongs to the state but is made accessable to the public. There are four buildings, the largest and perhaps the loveliest is building 003, the historical Gate house, a State Monument now housing studios, temporarily for artists developing ideas, on Maritime Power.
Amongst them are innovative small bussiness projects which, like the Ship Yard in its time, are given the opportunity to develop new ideas and to operate internationally. The other three buildings on the ‘Voorwerf’ belong to the 2nd half of the 20th Century. Building 006, the oldest, is from the 1960s and has been restored thoroughly but with great attention to detail and historic feeling and is now Pension Homeland.
It was formerly the officers’ stay of the Marine barracks, with the rooms, or cabins of the officers, who worked there throughout the week. They were given single or double rooms, depending upon their rank. The commander was given an apartment. On the ground floor the officers had a common room which the Marines called (in English) ‘the longroom’. Meals were prepared and served there and occasionally formal dinners were held, the men in ceremonial uniform and the ladies in evening gowns.
The longroom was available for receptions and parties but was mainly used as a common room for watching tv, playing billiards and having a drink at the bar. An ordinary working day was usually finished with a beer.
For 350 years this Land and its barracks were controlled by the Ministery of Defense. In recent years, part of this area has been transferred to the Central Government Real Estate Agency. The transferred buildings and sites are managed by Bureau Marineterrein Amsterdam, the project office that operates on behalf of the national government and the City of Amsterdam