Behind these buildings from the Jordaan district are the remains of three 18th century workers’ dwellings. The narrow Potters’ Alley [Pottenbakkersgang] between the two front premises leads to this ‘backstreet quarter’. This is the last remaining example of the many alleyways that were once plentiful in the Jordaan district. The city of Amsterdam gave this special piece of cultural heritage to the Netherlands Open Air Museum when it was no longer able to remain where it was. The slum dwellings show what life was like in Jordaan through the centuries. From the quay, you can step inside a post office, a Turkish boarding house and a café. The connecting theme is the comings and goings of the Jordaan residents. Film portraits on the first floor extend this theme to comings and goings in the Netherlands as a whole.
Potters’ Alley, 2001
Potters' Alley [Pottenbakkersgang] is named after the potters who worked here in the 17th century. Narrow alleyways like these led to dwellings in rear courtyards, built for workers. As a result of overpopulation and poverty, in the 19th century they became run-down. In around 1900, nine families lived on Potters’ Alley in dreadful conditions. The alley has been rebuilt as it was found in 2001.
The graffiti on the wall illustrates four themes: Amsterdam in the Golden Age, when the Jordaan district was first built, the history of migrants, and Aletta Jacobs, the first female doctor in the Netherlands, who held free surgeries for the poor people of the Jordaan district. The last theme is the treasure of Potters’ Alley: slums as heritage.
In 2001 the city of Amsterdam decided to demolish the slum dwellings on Potters’ Alley [Pottenbakkersgang]. This led to a great deal of discussion, as this unusual heritage illustrates what the living conditions were like for workers from the 17th century through to the early 20th century. Up until 1900 there were run-down, overpopulated slum dwellings all over the Netherlands. After the Housing Act of 1901, these were gradually replaced by better houses for workers. What for a long time had been the usual accommodation for the poor became a rarity. This unique heritage of lives lived in poverty was the harsh reality behind the idyll of the lively Jordaan district.
Following architectural and archaeological research, the premises were taken down in collaboration with the city of Amsterdam and relocated to the museum. They give an impression of their state of disrepair and neglect in 2001.
The Turkish boarding house, 1970
From 1960 onwards, alongside increasing prosperity, the need for workers also grew in the Netherlands. Following Germany’s example, companies recruited guest workers from Turkey. A recruitment contract between the Netherlands and Turkey regulated their arrival. Between 1964 and 1967 in particular, many Turkish workers came to the Netherlands.
This former wallpaper shop belonging to the Gasman family was used as a boarding house in 1970. Workers from various countries lived here, but it is known popularly as the ‘Turkish boarding house'. The interior of this boarding house was inspired by unique images captured by photographer Koen Wessing in ‘De Tijdsgeest’, another boarding house in Jordaan. They show the daily life of the Turkish workers. How did they live? What was their day like? What were their hopes, dreams, memories and experiences?
Café Tante Stien, 1974
There were dozens of bars in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam in the mid-1970s. Opera lovers made their way to the ‘Twee Zwaantjes’, Co Meijer’s was the place where the ‘regulars' got together for a game of billiards and, for a good story, pipe-smoking Uncle Herman’s on the Noordermarkt was the place to go.
This bar is inspired by café de Koevoet, a small local bar on Lindenstraat. Tante [Aunt] Stien ran this for many years. The bar was taken over by Frank Reinbergen in 1972. He attracted students with cheap meals. At that time the Koevoet played host to a lively mishmash of old Jordaan residents and newcomers. Drinks were served in generous measures and, on Sunday afternoons, sentimental Amsterdam songs were belted out, accompanied by the accordion.
Post office, 1957
Up until the late 1980s every district had its own post office. Everyone would have cause to call in. It was a busy hub of communication and monetary transactions. Customers would not only come to the post office to buy stamps and post packages, but also to pay their bills, withdraw money, pay money into their savings account and exchange guilders for foreign currencies. They could send telegrams, make telephone calls and arrange a licence for their radio.
In this post office you will find traces of the three main tasks of the PTT: Post Telegraph Telephone. The PO boxes show the varied activity in the Jordaan district in the 1950s. Back to overview of buildings