Amersterdam CL-101 - History

Amersterdam CL-101 - History

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Amersterdam CL-101


A manufacturing city located in eastern New York, 28 miles northwest of Albany.


Amsterdam (CL-59)—whose name was personally chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 2 August 1940 for this projected Cleveland-class light cruiser—was laid down on 1 May 1941 at Camden, N.J., by the New York Shipbuilding Corp. However, prior to her completion, the warship was converted to an aircraft carrier; renamed Independence (CV-22) (q.v.) on 12 February 1942; and was launched under the new name on 22 August 1942.


(CL-101: dp. 10,000; 1. 610'1"; b. 66'4"; dr. 24'; s. 31.6 k.; cpl. 1,426; a. 12 6", 12 5", 28 40mm., 10 20mm.; cl. Cleveland)

Amsterdam (CL-101) was laid down on 3 March 1943 at Newport News, Va., by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Co.; launched on 25 April 1944, sponsored by Mrs. William E. Hasenfuss, the first "Gold Star Mother" of Amsterdam, N.Y., who had lost a son in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941; and commissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., on 8 January 1945, Capt. Andrew P. Lawton in command.

After final fitting out at Norfolk, the light cruiser got underway on 5 February for shakedown training in the Chesapeake Bay. On 17 February, she stood out from Hampton Roads and headed south for Trinidad, British West Indies, and the second phase of her shakedown cruise. Amsterdam operated from Trinidad through 13 March, when she set a course for Norfolk. During the return voyage, she held shore bombardment practice off the island of Culebra and then arrived back at Norfolk on the 20th. Following a short cruise to Cape May, N.J., for gunnery exercises, the ship entered the Norfolk Navy Yard on 24 March for availability.

Amsterdam left the yard on 20 April for training exercises in Chesapeake Bay and, four days later, sailed for the Caribbean. She held training exercises off Culebra and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then proceeded to the Panama Canal which she transited on 5 May. The warship reached Pearl Harbor on 18 May and, during her stay in Hawaiian waters, carried out numerous gunnery and tactical exercises.

On 9 June, the cruiser set a course for Leyte, Philippine Islands. Upon her arrival in San Pedro Bay on the 21st, she reported to the 3d Fleet for duty. After a period of provisioning and refueling, the ship sortied on 1 July with Task Force (TF) 38 to cover air strikes against the Japanese home islands. On 10 July, the force's planes began a series of raids on Japanese airfields, factories, and shipping. During these actions, Amsterdam protected the carriers from attack by enemy air or surface forces. Among the cities the task force attacked were Tokyo, Kure, Kobe, and Osaka. On 15 August, TF 38 was preparing to launch another attack on Tokyo when its ships received word of Japan's capitulation.

During the next few weeks, Amsterdam remained in waters off the east coast of Honshu guarding against possible Japanese aggression during armistice negotiations. She steamed into Tokyo Bay on 5 September and remained there through the 20th and then shaped a course for the United States. After brief layovers at Buckner Bay, Okinawa, and Pearl Harbor to take on personnel for transportation to the United States, the cruiser arrived at Portland, Oreg., on 15 October and remained at that port for a fortnight to participate in Navy Day ceremonies. On the 29th, she got underway for San Pedro, Calif.

The ship reached San Pedro on 1 November. After a period of leave and upkeep, the cruiser left the west coast on 19 November bound for Pearl Harbor. She touched there on the 25th and took on personnel and equipment for transportation to the west coast. The cruiser set sail again on 12 December, arrived back at San Pedro on the 18th, and rode at anchor there into early 1946. On 21 January, she got underway for San Francisco. Shortly after her arrival, her crew began work to prepare the ship for inactivation and entry into the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was decommissioned on 30 June 1947 and was laid up at San Francisco. Amsterdam's name was struck from the Navy list on 2 January 1971, and the vessel was sold on 11 February 1972 to National Metal & Steel Corp., Terminal Island, Calif., and later scrapped.

Amsterdam earned one battle star for her World War II service

Amersterdam CL-101 - History

USS Amsterdam , a 10,000-ton Cleveland class light cruiser built at Newport News, Virginia, was commissioned in January 1945. She made training cruises in Chesapeake Bay and the West Indies during the next few months, and in May 1945 transited the Panama Canal, en route to join the war against Japan. Amsterdam operated during July and the first half of August as a unit of Task Force 38, whose carrier-based planes were engaged in strikes against targets in the Japanese Home Islands. The cruiser remained in the vicinity of Japan until the latter part of September, when she began her homeward-bound voyage across the Pacific. After taking part in Navy Day ceremonies at Portland, Oregon, she made a round-trip cruise to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In January 1946 Amsterdam arrived at San Francisco, California, where she soon began inactivation preparations. Formally decommissioned at the end of June 1947, she spent well over two decades in the Pacific Reserve Fleet. USS Amsterdam was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in January 1971 and sold for scrapping in February 1972.

This page features the only view we have of USS Amsterdam (CL-101), and provides information on other images that may be available from the National Archives.

If you want higher resolution reproductions than the digital images presented here, see: "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions."

Click on the small photograph to prompt a larger view of the same image.

At Portland, Oregon, for Navy Day festivities, October 1945.

Collection of Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph.

Online Image: 86KB 605 x 765 pixels

In addition to the images presented above, the National Archives appears to hold other views of USS Amsterdam (CL-101). The following list features some of these images:

The images listed below are NOT in the Naval Historical Center's collections.
DO NOT try to obtain them using the procedures described in our page "How to Obtain Photographic Reproductions".

Reproductions of these images should be available through the National Archives photographic reproduction system for pictures not held by the Naval Historical Center.

Officail Sites

4th Ward Veterans' Memorial

Perhaps the most colorful replacement to a ward honor roll, this memorial started as a stone monument sponsored by the 3rd and 4th Ward Republican Committees in 1967. In 1972, flags were added to the monument. According to a plaque at the site, there were at first ten flags: United States, New York State, City of Amsterdam, Italian, Irish, Lebanese, Lithuanian, Polish, Puerto Rican, and Polish. An eleventh pole and flag, Israeli, was added soon afterwards. Each foreign flag represented an Amsterdam ethnic community that gave its sons and daughters to the service and also helped raise funding for the memorial.

The nearby intersection of Edison Street and Vrooman Avenue has been designated [Anthony] Draus Drive and [Karol] Krajewski Corners after two of the primary organizers who created the monument.

The land for the monument was reserved from the sale of the former Vrooman Avenue School.

5th Ward Veterans’ Memorial

The South Side (5th Ward) was the first ward to create a temporary honor roll, and the first to prepare for a permanent replacement. In July, 1944, the Common Council voted to demolish a store house on Bridge Street and dedicate the land for permanent 5th Ward Memorial. A door-to-door canvas commenced immediately. By 1946, a beautiful cobblestone monument had been hand crafted by local resident William Nicholas. Plaques to honor all those who served would come later, as would the statue of a military chaplain which surmounts the monuments donated by Mr. and Mrs. Angelo Petitti, in memory of their son Private Anthony J. Petitti, who was killed in action while serving with the Army Air Forces in the Pacific, in May, 1942. The park was officially dedicated on Sunday, July 28th, 1957: there was a large parade and the main speaker was Peter Dellesandro, of Latham, New York, Medal of Honor awardee.

Additional plaques would be added later to honor those who had served (or were killed in action) in Korea and Vietnam, and to those who helped build and maintain the park, particularly to Richard Dantini and long-time 5th Ward Alderman Angelo Sardonia, and one to Donato Persico (see below).

In front of the monument are two M1A1 75mm Pack Howitzers. These cannons were designed to be light enough to flown on gliders or dissembled for mule package or air drop. Both served in action in World War Two, but one is extremely rare, having been manufactured in in 1935, the first year of casting at Watervliet Arsenal.

The land the park is built on was originally “Brockway’s Basin” which was filled in after the Erie Canal was moved into the Mohawk River in 1915. It gave the 5th Ward one of its earlier names, Port Jackson – The first or last place after or before Schenectady that canal boats could turn in to load, unload, resupply, or refit.

In 2017, after decades of building and maintaining the memorial, the South Side Veterans Association turned their funds and the responsibility for the park over to the city.

7th Ward Veterans’ Memorial

This monument is a triptych (three panels) which includes a central inscription flanked by the emblems of the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Air Force. (There is no emblem for the US Coast Guard, but in wartime, it is part of the US Navy). The walls are stucco, which echo the historic building slightly beyond it.

At the location of the original World War Two honor roll, the land was donated by Bigelow-Sanford in 1946. In 1963, a campaign started to restore the original honor roll which culminated in 1967. After that, an effort was pushed to create the permanent replacement which came to fruition in 1973.

8th Ward Veterans’ Memorial

Near the location of the original World War II honor roll, this monument was one of the last replacements erected, and is very simple: a simple granite rectangle on a rusticated base. It is inscribed simply “In Honor of all Eighth Ward Residents Who Served That Our Country May Forever Remain Free.” It was dedicated on November 11, 1978.

Amsterdam Veterans’ Memorial

Perhaps the most evocative, and unique (in at least Upstate New York), is this monument on the south side of Veterans’ Field. It was originally conceived as a rather typical veteran memorial, with service emblems and a photoengraved stone with servicemen in contemporary uniforms (this stone was eventually sold by the manufacturer to the Town of Florida Veterans’ Park, complete with quotes selected by the Amsterdam Veterans Commission).

Then, the City Historian suggested to the Amsterdam Veterans Commission to think smaller and more focused: to concentrate on what is the fundamental act that unites all veterans and separates them from civilians, and what is it that veterans would want to say to civilians to better understand them. The desire was for a monument to make people stop and think, not just look.

And so on the front is an amalgam of the enlisted and officer oaths of office, the one essential thing that binds all veterans together and forever separates them from other community members. We didn’t know when we put up our right hand to swear in if we would be storming Normandy or Mosul, or processing mail in Alabama, but we all promised that:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same That I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

The reverse contains two sections of the Military Code of Conduct:

I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

I will never forget that I am American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the United States of America.

Also on the reverse is the official seal of the City of Amsterdam and the inscription: “In Honor of All Amsterdam Veterans. Erected by the People of Amsterdam AD 2012, AUC 127.” AUC is ancient Roman abbreviation meaning in the year since the founding of the city. The monument was literally paid for the people, with alderman and members of the Amsterdam Veterans Commission collecting and washing out recyclables to fund it. Around the monument are pavers in memory of Amsterdam veterans purchased by their families. Landscaping was provided and is periodically renewed by the Amsterdam Home Depot.

James T. Bergen Park

Around 1918, the city acquired the former property of George Kelloggs at the intersection of West Main and Pearl Streets. Part of the property (the former stables) were converted into a new central fire station another into a park known as Kelloggs’. This was renamed Bergen Park in 1921 in memory of James T. Bergen, First Lieutenant of Amsterdam’s Company H, 2nd New York Infantry, who shipped out with the unit in 1917 – but not before marrying his girlfriend.

Bergen had fought with the company as part of an Australian corps in a British army in Belgium, and stayed with them as they were transferred to Northern France to participate in the 1918 Somme Offensive. On the morning of October 17th, 1918, near St. Souplet, at approximately 5:20 am, he was leading another company of the 105th Infantry (as his regiment had been redesignated) when he was killed in the first German counter barrage during an attack towards the Le Selle River. He had just been promoted to Captain that day. In his pocket was a photograph of the son he would never see: John Junior, born September 2nd, 1918. American Legion Post 39 chose to name themselves after Captain Bergen when it was founded in 1919.

James T. Bergen was born in Amsterdam on October 25th, 1886. A student and parishioner of St. Mary’s, after graduation he was an insurance agent. His body was not returned to Amsterdam until 1921: it lay in state at the Amsterdam Armory on April 10th, guarded overnight by members of Company H. The next morning, his coffin was transported by horse-drawn caisson to St. Mary’s church in a full procession, and thence to burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery by the same.

In 1936 and 1956, the Common Council considered converting the park to a parking lot. In 1956, it was proposed to name a portion on the east side of City Hall as Bergen Park. Neither proposal passed, faced with strong veteran opposition. In 1967, it was announced that the park would be sacrificed to construction of a new Route 5 arterial. In 1974, the Common Council considered renaming another city park to Coessens – Bergen Park after the two parks lost to redevelopment, but it did not.

At some point afterwards, the city designated a small strip of land near the intersection of Market and Main Streets as Bergen Park.

A small label on the current signage (about the size of a small mailing label) indicates that it was donated and erected by Jack and Lisa Putman of the Putman Insurance Company in memory of Harry D. Putman in 2006. Harry Putnam had served with James Bergen on the Mexican Border in 1916 protecting the US border against Pancho Villa’s raids. He later shipped out with him with the Amsterdam National Guard company for service in France in World War One. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (the nation’s second highest award for battlefield valor) (as well as the British Military Medal) for rescuing comrades from under direct enemy fire in the same general action that cost Bergen his life. Later, he would command the American Legion post named for his friend, found a successful insurance firm that still exists today, and serve as a City Alderman.

City Hall

The lobby contains a plaque containing the names of all those who served in the 27th Division (New York) in World War One. Future plans call for the creation of a military/veterans hallway with photos and art related to the history of Amsterdam. A marker is also slated to be installed in the upper stairwell to ABLE NAN BLACK 45 ALTERNATE: the telephone code name for the civilian Ground Observers Corps which manned an early warning station in the 1950s on the roof of City Hall before the radar defenses of North America were developed.

Coessens Park

Originally Ross’ Flat, site of circuses, bonfires, and one of the foulest murders in Amsterdam history, this site on the eastern edge of the city came into public hands around the time of the First World War, and was designated East End Memorial Park after the war. During the 1920s and 1930s, the park was developed with a skating rink, baseball fields, a football field, a cinder track, and other amenities. In 1933, the park’s name was changed to Mathew J. Coessens Memorial Park, named after the first Amsterdamian in die in combat in World War One the designation was delayed while it appeared that the lower campus of Mohawks Mills might wish to acquire the property. The monument to Coessens was dedicated in April 1935, and a similar plaque and column honoring all the war dead was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1938. Payment for the two monuments came from the same war chests funds that built the West End World War Memorial.

Matthew Coessens was a popular and good student at St. Mary’s Institute when he convinced his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Francis Coessens of 31 Morris Street, to allow him to enlist in the Regular Army one month after the United States entered World War One. At seventeen, he would be one of the youngest soldiers from Montgomery County. Before shipping out for Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, for training he was presented with his high school diploma, although the term had not yet ended.

He was eventually be assigned to Company A, 16th Infantry Regiment, in what would soon become known as the 1st Division (“The Big Red One”). After completing his initial training he joined his unit in France in November, 1917, just after the 16th became the first American infantry to engage the enemy. After participating in a series of defensive battles, in May, 1918, the 16th was part of the Allied counteroffensive, capturing Cantigny, an action in which Coessens was cited for bravery. According to a letter sent to his parents by his company commander, on July 18th, 1918, Company A was south west of Soissons when it “went over the top” from the trenches at 4:30 am. By 7:00 am, it had crossed a wheat field under heavy fire, taken the first German line and were hung up getting through heavy wire entanglements which were covered by artillery and machine gun fire. According to his captain, this is when Coessens was killed. Oddly, official records state that Coessens was severely wounded on the 18th, but lists him as ‘killed in action” on July 22nd. Either way, he was the first Amsterdamian to die in combat in the “Great War.” Perhaps his commander was attempting to spare the family from the thought that Coessen had lingered for several days.

His highest honor was the words of his commander who stated that “he was a soldier the Army could ill-afford to lose,” that he was up to any task, and that his mates found his character a relief from the unpleasantness of life in the trenches. Matthew Coessens was buried in France until he could be returned to his family in May of 1921. His funeral was at St. Mary’s and his pallbearers were fellow Institute classmates who had also served in the World War.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor Interestingly, the Coessens memorial includes the phrase “…And his companions who made the supreme sacrifice 1914 – 1918” This appears to recognize Amsterdamians who served in Allied forces (e.g., Canadian) before America entered the war in 1917.nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

In 1967, eleven acres of the park were sold to create an industrial park now, only the children’s wading pool and the two memorial markers remain.

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Marker

This plaque, mounted on the south-east abutment of the bridge carrying Florida Avenue over the South Chuctanunda Creek, commemorates where New York Militia forces, under command of Brigadier General Robert van Rensselaer, halted by the creek on the night of October 18th, 1780, to await moonrise before climbing Chuctanunda Hill in an attempt to engage British, Tory, and Native American forces raiding in the Schoharie Valley. The bronze marker was a donation of the Amsterdam Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and was unveiled in 1927.

Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Park

In 1951, representatives of the city’s veterans’ organizations requested that the city dedicate a park to the Grand Army of the Republic. This organization of Union veterans, forerunner of modern veterans’ organizations, had been a powerful social and political influence for decades after the Civil War, but by the 1940s its membership was all but gone. The Common Council concurred and the south lawn of City Hall was so designated. A dedication ceremony was held May 25, 1952: it rained so hard it had to be moved to the lobby of City Hall. On June 28th, 1953, a plaque recording the designation was unveiled on the brick wall.

Decades later, for reasons not now known, the plaque was removed and placed in Recreation Department storage. Before it was, city employee Anthony Legierro undertook to repaint and reseal it. Several years later the City Historian came across it and arranged that it be placed on a granite tablet. This was done in May of 2016.

The designation of GAR Park many have helped save City Hall. Back in 2010-11 a debate broke over whether it would be cheaper to move and rent or build a new location. The economics of this were never good, and they got a lot worse when it was pointed out that half the property could not be sold: parks are inalienable under the state constitution.

9-11 Memorial

Amsterdam’s 9-11 Memorial depicts a singular local aspect of that tragedy in a way that many other monuments don’t and those remembered include the service members who died that day. Beyond that, the flag displays include the US Navy’s first naval ensign, which was ordered to be flown on all US warships after that date until the end of the Global War on Terrorism, and the traditional signal for naval hospitals and hospital ships which was changed from “I am standing by to assist” to the more proactive “I am steaming to assist” after the attack.

In addition, an old naval tradition dating back to the ancient Greeks was followed when the flag poles and memorial lamp post were “stepped” (erected): gold coins from the US Mint representing each of the stricken locations were placed underneath their bases.

Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook

In addition to the history displayed on the bridge, the proposed flag poles for the site include a provision for flying under the city flag the US Navy signal flags for N (NOVEMBER) – U (UNIFORM) – G (GOLF) and B (BRAVO), the radio and visual signal call sign of the USS Amsterdam (CL-101), a light cruiser named for the city that served in the latter days of World War Two.

Hasenfuss Memorial

William Hasenfuss, Jr. was a bright young man interested in communications and aviation when he graduated from Wilbur Lynch High School in 1939. He was natural candidate for the US Army Air Corps, in which he enlisted shortly afterwards. By December, 1941, due his experience and the rapid expansion of the service, he was to be promoted from Private First Class (or Technician 1st Class) to Staff Sergeant, and to have a Christmas furlough home. The latter never happened.

On December 7th, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Their first targets were the airfields that could counterattack their own fleet. One of these was Hickam Field, on which the biggest bomber was a B-24, the only one in Hawaii, on which Hasenfuss was conducting preflight checks. He became the victim of one of the first bombs of the first battle of the war in the Pacific: not just the first Amsterdamian, but also one of the first Americans to die.

In July, 1942, the playground on Upper Locust Avenue formerly known as Patricks’ Field was redesignated William E. Hasenfuss, Jr. Memorial Field. Later in the war, when the USS Amsterdam (CL-101) was christened and launched, it was Sergeant Hasenfuss’ mother who swung the champagne bottle.

In July, 1942, the playground on Upper Locust Avenue formerly known as Patricks’ Field was redesignated William E. Hasenfuss, Jr. Memorial Field. Later in the war, when the USS Amsterdam (CL-101) was christened and launched, it was Sergeant Hasenfuss’ mother who swung the champagne bottle.

In the early 1950s, a much respected city recreation director, Alex Isabel, died unexpectedly and fund raising began to create a little league field on the northern portion of Hasenfuss’ Field this was soon accomplished. There is a story that Mrs. Hasenfuss was approached by the organizers or city officials and asked if she minded if the field was renamed for Isabel: “After all, what did your son really do for the city?” She is said to have replied: “He died for it.” Whether this is true or not, the Acting Recreation Director stated in 1953 that only the baseball diamond would be named Isabel field, and early references are to “Isabel Field at Hasenfuss Field.”

When the memorial stone was emplaced is not yet known, but it describes him as a member of the US Air Force, which did not exist until 1947.

Marnell, Patrone, and Persico Squares

There are three road intersections in the city named for veterans:

Marnell Square (where Bridge Street meets the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook) is named for Technical Sergeant Richard Marnell, who won the Distinguished Service Cross (the second highest US decoration) for heroism in infantry action outside Nancy, France, in 1944.

Patrone Square (Main and Church Streets) is named for the son of Italian immigrants who graduated West Point, became an early Army rocket pioneer, and later launch director of NASA’s Mercury, Gemini, and early Apollo Missions, and director of the later Apollo, and Sky Lab missions.

Persico Square is named for Donato (Dan) Persico, the second to last man to be rescued off the sunken submarine USS Squalus in 1939. In the first use of a deep sea rescue vessel, the lines snagged and he almost didn’t make it up after four failed attempts, the bell had to be hand-hauled up on its single remaining connector He later served as in World War Two and Korea, retiring as a Master Chief Torpedo Man and returned to Amsterdam to marry his sweetheart.

Sirchia Park

On Saturday, June 25, 1972, despite rain and overcast, the flag was raised and the monument to Frank John Sirchia was dedicated and blessed on land that had been formerly the grounds of City Memorial Hospital which had been converted to a playground when the hospital had moved up to Route 30. A flight of jets from the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from Griffiss AFB flew over in a “missing man” formation.

In July, 1969, Frank J. Sirchia AMVETS Post 32 requested the Common Council to rename the playground after the soldier who was commonly believed to be the first Amsterdamian to be killed on the ground in France after D-Day. The groundbreaking was in April, 1971, and the design and construction was primarily done by the AMVETS. The originally specifications were for hexagon concrete basis, a rise of tapestry brick topped by precast concrete base, topped by a tower of multi-color glass which would be lit internally at night. At what point this tower was replaced by the plain granite obelisk seen today is not yet known.

The plaque on the monument states that he was killed on June 6th, 1944 on Normandy Beach. This is not so. As member of the second wave of the assaulting 29th Infantry Division, he hit Omaha beach around 11:00 at the height of the fighting on the most dangerous beach of D-Day. In the days that followed he and comrades of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 115th Infantry had pushed the beachhead out, capturing Isigny, crossing the inundated area and the Elle River, and were pushing on to the key city of St. Ló running up against the bocage (hedgerow) county and heavy German artillery and machine gun fire from the same. It was here, on July 16th, that Sirchia was killed in action. The news of his death came after his parents had received a letter dated June 12th stating he was heavily engaged but well, but before news was received of other Amsterdamians who died on D-Day or shortly thereafter.

Sirchia was born in Amsterdam March 1, 1924, to Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Sirchia of 12 Bayard Street (just around the corner from the memorial). He attended public schools and was an honor graduate of Technical High School. Before he was inducted in March, 1943, he was an employee of the Amsterdam Glove Company.

Pulaski Bridge

This bridge, on Fourth Avenue over the Chuctanunda Creek, was the first convenient (and safe) connection between Amsterdam’s Polish and Park Hills neighborhoods. Originally built in 1931, it was rebuilt in 2004. At first there were two bronzes plaques at the south west shoulder of the bridge: one that stated that it was dedicated in the name of Brigadier General Casmir Pulaski of the Continental Army and listing the construction participants, the second added detail to Pulaski’s story. The second plaque was replaced by another giving the details of the rebuild in 2004, and the original went into storage at City Hall, where it is periodically displayed.

Pulaski was a Polish nobleman and revolutionary that fought against Russian domination of Poland. Forced into exile, he was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to serve American independence. Credited with saving George Washington’s life in battle, he organized the Pulaski Legion and is considered the “Father of the United States Cavalry.” He was mortally wounded leading a charge against the British near Savannah, Georgia, and died on October 11th, 1780. He is one of only eight foreigners granted honorary US citizenship by Congress.

Veterans' Field

In 1920, Sanford and Sons carpet mills purchased fifty acres to create a recreational facility for its employees. Its successor, Bigelow-Sanford, continued this until it ceased manufacturing in Amsterdam in 1955. The land and improvements were thereafter donated to the city. It was redesignated as Veterans Field in 1971.

On the northern, higher rise of Veterans’ Field (sometimes called Veterans’ Park), is a monument dedicated to and listing in alphabetical order those who died in service during World War II. Its central panel calls for “Honor and Glory to Our Dead Heroes.” Two flanking panes list the dead. The basic monument is polished black marble (with rusticated edges) and polished granite inserts.

In front of the memorial is a 57mm M1 anti-tank gun, built in 1943 based on a British design, and used in all theaters of World War Two by the US Army.

On the south side of the park is Amsterdam Veterans Memorial (see above)

West End Memorial Park

In addition to the several Liberty Loans that were raised in the city during the First World War, citizens were asked to contribute to a “war chest” to provide comfort to American and Allied soldiers. At the end of the war there was enough of a surplus to build this park as well as the East End Memorial Park (later, Coessens Park).

It was dedicated on November 29th, 1925. Rising from a granite exedra base with reliefs of flames, eagles’ head, and a wreath, with bronze plaque listed all from Amsterdam who served in the war. A life sized infantryman sculpted by David Cunningham Lithgow surmounts the monuments.

Park lighting was added in the later 1920s, and additional plaques in the 1940s. Well into the 2000s additional names were being added to the memorial. Also in the early 21st Century a fountain and larger flagpole were added.

In 1930, the name of the park was officially changed to “World War Memorial Park” but this next caught on with the public. In 1934, to the great embarrassment of the community, someone took down the American Flag and ran up the red banner of revolution. In 1970, arterial construction slated its destruction but public outcry saved it.

An important feature of the original park was a captured German cannon, locally called “Big Bertha:” this it was most certainly not. Dicke Bertha was much larger cannon, whose specifications exceeded even local exaggeration: only two were removed to the United States at the end of the war and both have been accounted for. It was most likely a long barrel 15cm schwere Feldhaubitze (lg 15cm sFH 13), the standard heavy gun of the German field artillery. When it was proposed to scrap it in World War II to “send it back to its creators in bombs and bullets,” many veterans objected but the mayor and director of civil defense prevailed. It was sent to a Cherry Street scrapyard where it was chopped up it ultimate destination is unknown.

At the request of the city, in 1950, the US Army supplied a replacement. This cannon, commonly misidentified as a French 75mm, is actually a US Army 3 inch Field Gun, M1903/5. Similar in appearance and purpose to the French 75, these were left behind in the overseas movements of World War One to standardize equipment and ammunition. Ironically, Amsterdam received a much rarer piece: over 3,500 15cm sFH 13 were built, but only 350 M1903/5. Of the latter only a handful survives, most in indoor museums: Amsterdam’s is one of the only surviving outdoor examples, and its appearance is a testament to the efforts of the city’s Recreation and Public Works staff. It is scheduled to be repainted to its original colors in the near future.

Other Sites

John J. Wyszomirski American Legion Post 701

Private John J. Wyszomirski of Jay Street, Amsterdam (sometimes also given as Jan Wyszomeirski) was originally a member of Company H (Amsterdam) 105th Infantry, 27th Division, but was serving with Company M, when he died in France on October 31, 1918.

After training at Camp Wadsworth, Spartanburg, South Carolina, his unit deployed to France in May, 1918. One of only two American divisions released to Allied control, it served in an Australian Corps in a British army in Belgium, first in defensive sectors, and then in the Ypres-Lys offensive. Transferred to Northern France, it fought in the Somme Offensive to break the Hindenburg Line at Bony, St. Quentin Tunnel, and Quillemont Farm. It later fought at the Le Selle and St. Maurice Rivers on the line of advance to Cambrai. Two days after he was mortally wounded his unit was pulled out of the line and did not return to battle before hostilities ceased.

The post will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its founding in 2019. Although only open to the general public on certain occasions, the “new headquarters” (1975) contains items regarding Wyszomirski and the post’s first one hundred years.

Soldiers & Sailors Monument, Green Hill Cemetery

Located in the south central section of the cemetery is an elevated plateau in the middle of which is a column topped by an American eagle and erected in 1872. The northern face of the base is inscribed in memory of those who died in the “War of the Rebellion,” The other three faces list battles regiments with a high proportion of Amsterdamians fought in. Most are immediately recognizable to any student of American history: West Point (Virginia), Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania. One, Olustree (Florida), little known today, was of the bitterest one-day battles of the war, in which the 115th New York State Volunteer Infantry (NYSVI) fought. The other wasn’t actually a battle: Andersonville, the notorious Confederate prison, represents the plight of Amsterdamian who were POWs. Noticeably absent is any mention of Harpers Ferry, at which the brand-new 115th was surrendered as part of a Union army through no fault of its own. Paroled, it was sidelined as non-combatants until released from same. It thereafter fought with a vengeance to prove its valor, becoming known as the “Iron Hearted Regiment.” It became a “flying squad” of the Union armies, sent wherever the action was difficult or unusual.

Aligned with the northern face of the base are stairs leading up to the rise. At the other cardinal points are stones that memorialize service members buried elsewhere or whose bodies were not recovered. There are two circles of stones around the monument: in the inner circle are soldiers who died in the war, the outer, those who died after the war but wanted to be buried with their comrades. On line with the axis of the northern base and stairs in the inner circle is the headstone of Captain Elisha S. Young, commander, Company D, 32nd NYSVI, who was killed in action at West Point, Virginia in 1862: the first Amsterdamian officer to die in the war. The first Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post of Union veterans formed in Amsterdam was named for him after many of its founders had been involved in creating the memorial.

Civil War Monument, Fairview Cemetery

In the north central section of the cemetery is a very unusual appearing Civil War cannon next to a pile of cannon balls and a flagpole.

Soon after the creation of the cemetery in 1899, local Civil War veterans determined to create a monument to their comrades as they had done previously at Green Hill Cemetery. The secured a cannon from the Washington Navy Yard, and the money to ship it was raised by a series of travelogues given by Reverend Putnam Cady, of the Emmanuel Presbyterian Church on Guy Park Avenue. These were not just normal travel talks: Cady was a pioneer of archeology in the Holy Land, and one of only a few Americans elected to the Royal Geographical Society.

The monument was dedicated October 16, 1906.

The cannon began life as an 11 inch Dahlgren spherical shell gun after the war, the navy needed to reequip with rifled shell guns, but there was limited funding available, so some 11 inch guns were converted to 8 inch rifles. These resemble their original designs, but are not. Very few modified guns still exist. This one sailed twice around the world before coming to rest here. The breech has a red ring painted around it and the spherical shells piled nearby (actually for the original, not modified gun) are painted in an early “idiot-proofing” measure: See red, load red.

Spanish American War Memorial, Green Hill Cemetery

Also on the south side of Green Hill cemetery, but further east, is a grouping of headstones of soldiers and sailors who served is the Spanish American War. It is marked by a flagpole flying an American flag. In the center is what appears to be an oversized machine gun, and in some ways it actually is. It’s a US Navy Mark VI one pounder rapid fire gun, designed by the inventor of the modern machine gun, Hiram Maxim, and built circa 1895, by Vickers, Sons, and Maxim. It could fire 100 37mm rounds per minutes to a range of 4,500 yards. When it was placed there is uncertain, but probably not earlier than 1910, when the US Navy began replacing these with more modern ordnance.

It’s possible the donor was Stephan Sanford, the mill owner, in conjunction with the local post of the United Spanish War Veterans which named its organization in honor of him. Although Sanford had left West Point to help run the family mill and never was commissioned, he was called “General” around the city and much regarded by Spanish American War veterans.

Forty-Sixth Separate Company Armory

Amsterdam’s “castle” sits on a hill on the South Side, visible from many parts of the city. Built in 1894, it was the home of what was originally called the 46th Separate Company of the National Guard of the State of New York. Situated and fortified so that its volunteer members could rapidly assemble, arm, and deploy to protect the Mohawk River bridge and rail yards in case of social or labor unrest. This was never needed, but the command (under several changing designations) was called out numerous times for state service elsewhere, and for federal service in the Spanish American War, on the Mexican Border (1916), and in both world wars. Military activities continued there into the 1980s, when force reductions made the structure surplus. After two sales as a private residence, it is now being rebuilt as a high scale “destination event” bed and breakfast. It is anticipated that the lobby and certain rooms will retain their original ornate character.

The armory is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

Polish American Veterans (PAV)

53 Church Street was once the circa 1860s home of a prominent city businessman and his physician brother. Since 1961, it has been the headquarters of PAV, established by returning Polish-American veterans in 1946. Once, just one of over twenty veterans’ organizations in the city: now it is one of only two.

While normally only open to members and guests, several times a year the public is invited in and it’s possible to see over seventy years of veteran activities and memorabilia. Chief of these is the Lista Honorowa, (Honor Roll) hand painted on wood for the Filius Polonais (Sons of Poland) in 1919. Always visible out front of the post is a stone honoring the Henry Schotte Post 118 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), which met for many years at the PAV.

The Henry F. Schotte Chapter was founded locally before the Second World War, although the national organization was not chartered by Congress until 1958. Henry F. Schotte was the son of prominent Amsterdam banker, contractor, and businessman Kuno B. Schotte (1872-1954) (President, Grieme Lumber and Supply, Green Hill Cemetery, Chamber of Commerce contractor for the YMCA, Children’s Home, Home for Elderly Ladies, and many mill buildings and Vice President, Montgomery County Trust Company bank). Private Henry Schotte, first generation German-American, was killed in action July 20th 1918, while assigned to Company K, 18th Infantry, 1st Division, near Chateau Thierry, in one of the first American ground combats of the First World War.

Schotte grew up on Minaville Road, and was living with his bride in a new house on Grieme Avenue when he volunteered for the Regular Army in order to see action as soon as possible. At the time of his death he was believed to have been killed on the same day and in the same battle as Matthew Coessens, for whom Coessens Park was named (Coessens actually died two days earlier). Schotte is buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

Saint Mary's Roman Catholic Church

The “Liberty” stained glass window (sometimes called the “Freedom” window) was dedicated and blessed on Sunday, June 10th, 1945, in honor of those who were serving or missing or killed, followed by a solemn mass. Many military, veteran, and religious organizations participated, and a drum and bugle sounded off during the elevating of the chalices.

Saint Stanislaus Cemetery

In the southeastern portion of the cemetery, there is a flagpole and two stones on one base, one in English, one in Polish, dedicated to the dead of World War One. In front is a semicircle of headstones, including that of John Wyszomirski, for whom American Legion Post 701 is named. The stones were dedicated May 30, 1928 by the Saint Michaels’ Society (St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church) On the same base is also a salute or signal gun, sometimes also called a yacht cannon. It was designed with a top-loading breech which accepts small caliber blank charges, and was fired by a lanyard pull on a trigger.

Ukranian Veterans Monument

When the local Ukrainian social organization shuttered its club house operation, one of its leaders designed and invested in the placement of three large tablets in Saint Nicholas’ Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery. The third stone honors Ukrainian-American veterans. All were erected and dedicated in 2011.

Wilbur Lynch School

Now the city’s middle school, formerly its high school. Two memorial stones are placed by a tree and a flag near the stairway leading up the hill to the front entrance. One states that the Student Council of the Class of 1968 dedicated the grounds to those who gave their lives while serving in Vietnam. The other lists the names of fourteen alumni who were killed in action during the years 1966 – 1969.


For years, these monuments have served as a focal point for the community: the start or ending points for memorial parades and events.

Whereas once Amsterdam had over twenty veterans’ organizations, now it has only two. American Legion Post 701 and the Polish American Veterans, who cooperate with Girl and Boy Scouts, and local school classes, work to ensure that each veteran’s grave or veterans’ memorial is appropriately honored each year.

A diverse community, Amsterdam is proud, and remembers, the devotions and sacrifices of it sons and daughters: whatever their background: when called, they were all Americans.

The information in this article is as accurate as known in April, 2018. For Corrections and additions to this article please contact the City Historian RobertVon Hasseln.

Second World War

10 th of May, 1940. The Germans invaded the Netherlands. Many lives were taken due to starvation and as a result of the deportation of the Jews to Nazi concentration camps. The house of Anne Frank where she and her family were hiding, is one the most popular attractions nowadays. Amsterdam lost 10 percent of its inhabitants.

After the Second World War, many new suburbs were built around Amsterdam. The society changed, many people moved to the suburbs. At the same time, the population grew because of a lot of Surinamese, Turkish and Morocco immigrants. The city center of Amsterdam got restored and restoration is still ongoing. Many of its buildings have become monuments. In july 2010, the 3 main canals (Herengracht. Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht) were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

1813-1940: Recovery and Expansion beyond the Singelgracht

The period 1813-1940 is marked by economic recovery and, from 1870 onwards, by expansion. The increasing wealth brought about a rapid population growth. This development was primarily the result of the Industrial Revolution which triggered off a New Golden Age. The city now ventured into the area beyond the Singelgracht. Large poorly built working-class neighbourhoods were built. The period 1920-1940 was a time of economic recession. Therefore it is all the more remarkable that the so-called Ring 20-40 compares favourably to the 19th century jerry-building. This was also the period of large-scale damage to the historical city centre canals were filled in and new traffic breakthroughs were realised.

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The history of the Netherlands can never be narrated without talking about Amsterdam. For hundreds of years, the economy of Amsterdam has been driven by the Amsterdam waterways. While the city’s waterways played its part, beer and herring also helped usher the city into the Dutch Golden Age. In 1323, the city acquired the exclusive right to import beer from Hamburg. This gave the city an important trade monopoly in Holland. The herring trade had traditionally been in the hands of the Baltic Sea countries, but because the herring were going to spend their mating time in the North Sea instead of the Baltic Sea, Amsterdam had the opportunity to interfere. Moreover, at that time the herring jaws were invented. This is an old Dutch method of removing the entrails of the herring immediately after the catch to keep it fresh for longer. This allowed the fishermen to catch more fish and thus make more profit.

The Dutch East India Company (V.O.C) also plays a major role in the flourishing of Amsterdam. The V.O.C. was one of the first multinationals in the 17th century. The company sailed to India with ships and brought spices and herbs to the Netherlands. The merchants brought these spices from afar and stored them in large warehouses. These warehouses were important because merchants needed them to store their wares. If they sold everything in one go, they would receive less money than if they sold it in smaller quantities.

Slow Growth - Early 1700's

During the early decades of the 1700s waves of Scotch-Irish and German Palatine immigrants begin to pour into the Mohawk Valley bypassing the Amsterdam area for points further west or in the Schoharie Valley: the land of the future city is rocky and steep it's very close to the baronial holdings of the powerful Johnson family there are fraudulent land claims hotly contested by the Mohawks. The few who do settle here are insulated from the worst effects of the American Revolution on the New York frontier: they don't represent a large target, the Loyalists and Indians are hesitant to raid too far east of the Schoharie Creek, and the Loyalist Johnson family is hoping to reclaim its property (intact) when the war ends. After the war, Veddersburg (as it is now known after an early family) grows very slowly, a handful of mills, shops, and stores to attend to the needs of nearby farming communities. For a long time Amsterdam is smaller than Cranesville, due east of it, which remains about the same size today as it was then. Very little changes except the name: tradition has it that in 1804 Amsterdam is chosen in honor of early Dutch settlers (it may have also been thought a good idea to take the same name as the recently created township in which it was located, hoping to become the seat of government).

History of Amsterdam

Although modern historians do not exclude the possibility that during the Roman period some form of settlement existed at the mouth of the Amstel River, no evidence of one has ever been found. So far as is known, Amsterdam originated as a small fishing village in the 13th century ad . To protect themselves from floods, the early inhabitants had to build dikes on both sides of the river, and about 1270 they built a dam between these dikes.

Even then, merchant ships from Amsterdam sailed as far as the Baltic Sea and laid the foundation of the future trade centre, acting as a link between northern Europe and Flanders (now northern Belgium and northern France). The city was under the jurisdiction of the counts of Holland, one of whom, Count Floris V, granted the homines manentes apud Amestelledamme (“people living near the Amstel dam”) a toll privilege in 1275. This document mentions the name Amsterdam for the first time, though a full charter was not granted until 1306. The city rapidly extended its business, and in 1489, as a sign of gratitude for the support given by the city to the Burgundian-Austrian monarchs, Emperor Maximilian I allowed Amsterdam to adorn its armorial bearings with the imperial crown. By then Holland’s greatest commercial town and port, as well as the granary of the northern Netherlands, Amsterdam had become a centre of wealth and influence in Europe.

After the Netherlands passed to the Spanish crown in the 16th century, a religious and political rebellion against Spanish oppression spread across the region. Amsterdam hesitated to join the rebellion led by William I (the Silent), prince of Orange, but in 1578 there was a bloodless revolution in the city. The magistrates, together with the majority of Roman Catholic priests, were deported the religious orders and communities were secularized the Dutch Reformed church effectively replaced the Roman Catholic church and Amsterdam joined the Dutch rebellion against Spain.

Amsterdam was still a small city with no more than about 30,000 inhabitants, but things changed quickly, especially in 1585, when Spanish troops recaptured Antwerp (in modern Belgium), then the dominant port and commercial centre of the Netherlands. Dutch forces responded by blockading the Schelde River, Antwerp’s only access to the sea. The fall of Antwerp led to a wholesale influx of mainly Protestant refugees into the towns of the northern Netherlands, especially Amsterdam. Their arrival enriched the city’s intellectual, cultural, and commercial life. Banking and shipbuilding especially flourished. Much of the trade formerly concentrated in Antwerp then moved to Amsterdam, and along with the Flemish merchants soon came hundreds of Jews expelled from Portugal, followed by their coreligionists from the area of modern Germany and eastern Europe. The city soon became a trading metropolis, whose population more than tripled between 1565 and 1618. Merchant ships from Amsterdam not only sailed to the Baltic and the Mediterranean but also plied the long sea route to the East Indies and established colonies in South America and southern Africa.

At this time, the still outwardly medieval town developed into a big city, and in 1612 the city council decided upon a new extension—the Three Canals Plan. Furthermore, the city needed a new and stately city hall, and the architect Jacob van Campen was commissioned to build one on Dam square in the shadow of the New Church. In 1632 the Athenaeum Illustre (which became the University of Amsterdam in the 19th century) was erected. When the Treaty of Münster ended the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648) with Spain, Amsterdam was the financial, trading, and cultural centre of the world, lending money to foreign kings and emperors and thus exerting political influence internationally.

Conflict between the city council and other political forces in the Dutch republic was inevitable because the country was effectively no longer ruled by the States General in The Hague but by a small elite of magistrates and merchants in Amsterdam. This situation led to political difficulties with William II, prince of Orange, who in 1650 planned to besiege the city. Amsterdam, nevertheless, maintained its dominant position for many years. Decline gradually came in the 18th century London and Hamburg surpassed Amsterdam as trade centres, and London became the financial heart of Europe. Amsterdam was occupied in 1787 by the Prussians, who backed the policy of William V, prince of Orange. The French, welcomed as liberators in 1795, brought freedom, but within a few years trade and shipping nearly stopped because of Napoleon’s embargo on trade with Britain. In 1806 Napoleon proclaimed the Netherlands a kingdom, with Amsterdam as its capital, but by 1810 the country was incorporated into the French Empire. Russian Cossacks drove out the French and entered the city in 1813, and, on March 30, 1814, William VI, prince of Orange, was inaugurated as William I, king of the Netherlands, in Amsterdam’s New Church.

10x Fascinating Amsterdam History Facts That Will Amaze You

Learn more about the most liberal city in the world and check out these amazing Amsterdam history facts that will blow your mind.

1 | Amsterdam History Facts: Canal Ring

The Brouwersgracht.

Did you know that Amsterdam’s world famous canal ring got its spot on the UNESCO world heritage list only as recently as 2010? Even though the unique canal construction functioned as an inspiration for the construction of Saint Petersburg in Russia. All in all Amsterdam has around 100 kilometers of canals and is considered to be the Venice of the North.

Especially in the past, the canals where used for transportation of products. While nowadays it’s mostly used for recreational purposes.

2 | Amsterdam History Facts: Royal Palace Dam Square

Amsterdam’s Royal Palace is open for public and a must-see!

When construction of this massive palace was completed this building was actually the largest non-religious structure in Europe. Built during the hight of power of the Dutch Republic the building was intended to showcase Holland’s arrival and simultaneous domination of the world’s oceans and trade. The outside of the building looks quite austere, to see the glory of this building one must enter it. When the building isn’t in use for Royal or public functions the people can visit. A must for anyone visiting Amsterdam. During our history tour we’ll pass by this unique attraction and tell you more about its rich history.

3 | Amsterdam History Facts: Van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh as an hot-air balloon.

The Dutch master painter Van Gogh was largely self-taught. Only for a short period of around four months did he receive formal artistic training. And that happened only a few years before his death. Did you know that this famous painter actually lived in Amsterdam? During the Amsterdam History Tour we’ll show you the first church that Van Gogh visited when he arrived in Amsterdam.

4 | Amsterdam History Facts: Rembrandt van Rijn

The famous Night Watch painting on display in the Rijksmuseum.

Despite his initial large success Rembrandt in the end died in poverty. By the late 1640’s he had spent his large fortune. Failing to pay his mortgage he declared bankruptcy. He sold his house and many other belongings and moved into a smaller home together with his family. He never recovered financially from this.

Did you know that he got married in Amsterdam’s oldest building?

5| Amsterdam History Facts: Anne Frank

Anne Frank statue in Amsterdam.

Did you know that Anne Frank actually wasn’t Dutch? Her parent fled from Germany due to rampant anti-semitism in the country and the poor economic conditions. Anne Frank’s story fits into Amsterdam’s history of being a shelter for those being persecuted throughout Europe. Unfortunately Amsterdam ended being a safe haven when the Germans invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940.

6 | Amsterdam History Facts: Red Light District

Amsterdam’s Wallen area.

Did you know that most windows are lit up in red in the Red Light District but some some windows are actually lit up in blue? When you see a blue lit window brothel during your visit chances are that there’s a transexual prostitute standing in the window brothel. But why do all the regular prostitutes have red lights to begin with? Well, red lights actually hides imperfections on the skin of the prostitutes. It makes them prettier. Also decades ago, prostitutes used red lights to hide STD’s.

7 | Amsterdam History Facts: Drugs Facts

Users can get their illegal XTC tested legally in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands is currently the number one ecstasy producing nation of the world. If you look at history this country has been a major drugs producer or dealer ever since the inception of the first Dutch Republic back in 1588. You can learn more about the rich history of drugs and the Netherlands during our Amsterdam Drugs Tour.

8 | Amsterdam History Facts: Dutch Stock Exchange

The first dedicated stock exchange building in the world.

The modern stock exchange was actually invented in Amsterdam. The Dutch invented stocks. Trading first started on a bridge close to current Amsterdam Central train station. During our Amsterdam History Tour our licensed guide will point you to the actual bridge and the building where they kept on trading when it rained.

9 | Amsterdam History Facts: The VOC, World’s First Corporation

A replica of a VOC ship in the Rijksmuseum.

A stock exchange isn’t much without actual stocks. With the creation of the VOC, world’s first corporation, they also created the first publicly traded company. As soon as the first stock certificates were handed out trading started on the streets.

10 | Amsterdam History Facts: House Boats

At this time there are around 3000 houseboats in Amsterdam. The history of houseboats in Amsterdam can be traced back as far as the 16th century. Plenty of locals still live in these unique dwellings. You could also rent one via Airbnb for your stay in Amsterdam.

The Amsterdam Canals: A History

While walking around Amsterdam you can’t help but notice the canals, and just how beautiful they are. The main Canal ring was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 2010 and this year they celebrate their 400th birthday and will play a big part in the Amsterdam 2013 celebrations throughout the year.

Image: Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA)

The canals have a rich history starting 400 years ago and were part of the economic and cultural boom during the 17th Century. The three canals which comprise the canal belt are the Herengracht, Prinsengracht and the Keizersgracht. Originally constructed in the Golden Age, the canal belt was built to improve the infrastructure of the city, to allow for new development and was part of a project to turn Amsterdam into a port city.

In 1602 the Dutch East India Trading company (or VOC) was born and this led to a massive boom in maritime trade, shipping goods from all corners of the globe. Because of this Amsterdam became one of Europe’s most important cities, which led to an influx of immigrants seeking wealth.

It attracted many highly skilled craftsmen, the political elite and the artistic elite. By 1685 Amsterdam’s per Capita income was four times that of Paris, which led to a huge boom in real-estate development along the canals during the 17th and 18th Centuries, many of which are still there today.

In 1621 the West Indies Company was formed, and this meant that the Dutch became the centre of the slave trade between the West Coast of Africa, the Americas and the West Indies. At one point the WIC was the second biggest trader of slaves in this area, it wasn’t until 1790 that they stopped trading because of abolitionists and slave rebellions. This year Amsterdam will be celebrating 150 years since the abolition of slavery.

Image: Klovenier Burgwal (canal) Amsterdam Holland

By the 19th century the city was in decline. The maritime trade suffered because of wars with France and England, and at first paying the French and English to maintain the freedom of the seas seemed like a good idea, but very quickly the costs mounted up, leaving Amsterdam stripped of its wealth.

This also meant a huge increase in poverty for Amsterdam, and several freezing winters caused transport problems which quickly led to food shortages. With Britain blockading the coast because of their support in the American war of Independence, the British very quickly started to attack Dutch trading posts around the world which led to the dissolving of both the Dutch East India, and Dutch West India trading companies.

Today, the canals are host to many colourful events, most notably Queen’s day and Gay Pride both featuring lots of music, festivities and dancing. With all of the celebrations going on in Amsterdam this year, the Canal festival in August is set to be a highlight, with both indoor and outdoor performances of classical music in different locations all over the city.

The best way to explore the city’s canals is on the water and there are several boat companies offering different packages, so you can experience the canals both during the day and at night. If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure though, from April onwards you can learn how to paddleboard in the Ij and on Amsterdam’s canals (although it’s closed during the winter, because nobody wants to fall into the freezing water).

There are also exhibitions going on throughout the year around Amsterdam where you can learn about the vast history of the canals, but the best place to learn about it is at the Museum Het Grachtenhuis (Museum of the Canals), where they have an interactive exhibition where 400 years of history is covered in just 40 minutes. It is also a canal house built in the 17th Century and inhabited by many wealthy traders over the years, so the house is a piece of Golden Age history in itself.The Amsterdam Museum is also exhibiting the story of the Golden Age where you can learn about the economic prosperity during the 17th Century, which is running until August 2013.

So, the canals have seen it all. From the rise and fall of the Dutch East India company, to the present day, all without really changing that much. It is rare that a piece of history this old still works as it would have done 400 years ago (though with much less traffic), and still maintain its beauty. Here’s to 400 more years.

Water cleanliness in Amsterdam canals

Watermanagement is still the most important function of our canals. Without them, the city would drown. Circulating the water is also vital for sanitary reasons. In the days when windmills had to do the job, the stench of the water could become unbearable in periods with little wind or rain. One canal was even filled in for its stench by Royal Decree, from the only King who ever lived in Amsterdam.

Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Louis was King of Holland between 1806 and 1811. He had City Hall on Dam Square rebuilt to be his palace. The stench of the canal behind the palace kept his wife Constance from her sleep, so he ordered it to be filled in to make a "smart and respectable Avenue" The name of that street is still 'Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal', which translates into: "Front defence moat on the new side".

Today, the water in the canals is cleaner than it has ever been in their history. Three times a week, 14 of the 16 existing waterlocks around the city close up, so clean water can be pumped in from the big lake IJsselmeer. The current that creates pushes the dirty canalwater out through the open locks on the other side of the city. Specialized cleaning boats with big scoops and nets patrol frequently to clean surface dirt. Since 2005, all the houseboats in the city are connected to the sewer system.
The cleaner water has attracted life. About 20 different species of fish and crabs live a healthy life below the surface. That bounty attracts waterbirds like herrons, ducks, coots, gulls and recently even cormorants.

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Watch the video: A Quick History of Amsterdam (July 2022).


  1. Donnel

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  2. Brenden

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  3. Julkree

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  4. Farlan

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