The more agitated the past, the more peaceful the present – this is the first thing that comes to my mind when trying to describe the Islands of Amsterdam, be it the Western Islands (Westelijke Eilanden) or the Eastern ones (Oostelijke Eilanden).
Just like their Western counterparts, the Eastern Islands are very closely located to the city center, yet they feel disconnected from it in many ways. And I don`t mean to say the Islands are technically isolated from the rest of Amsterdam, because they`re not (although the railways might create an idea of separation).
What I am actually trying to say is that they are characterized by a total lack of interest from what city life entails: they are extremely quiet and their inhabitants seem to be living a very bohemian existence. But this hasn`t always been the case.
Back in the 17th century, the Eastern Islands (made up of Kattenburg, Wittenburg and Oostenburg) were home to the Dutch shipping industry. The shipyard of the famous East India Company (VOC) was located in Oostenburg and every year one new ship was built here. At one point in time, the VOC had 150 ships in the water somewhere in the world.
In the 19th century, the VOC left the stage bankrupt and the Royal Dutch Steam Company (KNSM) moved in the area. Oostenburg turned into a harbour for steamboat services sailing passengers to destinations like the Mediterranean, Hamburg, London and all the way to the Americas.
Soon, Amsterdam Steamboat Company (ASM) was created. When ASM started to focus on rail road machineries, such as steam engines, locomotives, trains and trams, it became famous all over the world by the name Werkspoor. The Werkspoor Museum can nowaday be found at Oostenburgerghracht 77.
In 1920, shipbuilder KNSM moved to Amsterdam North (becoming NDSM) and most of the original VOC, ASM and social housing buildings from this rich industrial period of Amsterdam were demolished. From those which survived, one of the most prestigious is Lands Zeemagazijn, home to Dutch Maritime Museum (Scheepvaart Museum) since 1973. Another building which is worth the attention is the Oosterkerk on Wittenburg.
Unlike the more famous Oostenburg, Wittenburg was used for private shipbuilding and for housing the workers. Today it is undergoing major transformation, with a lot of building works taking place in the area.
As for Kattenburg, although it was once home to the Admiral’s offices, over time it became rather dilapidated. In 1953 the municipal council approved a rennovation plan for the area and today it’s an example of urban renewal.
From industrial shipyards to steamboat harbours and steam engine factories, it is no wonder that the present day Eastern Islands still carry signs of this former industrial past. However, the rhythm of life in the Islands has changed completely over time. Today, as mentioned in the beginning, it is mostly peaceful and easy living.
Here are some photos taken this past Sunday, while walking along the Eastern Islands. I hope to insist more on each of the three islands on a future occassion.
Approaching the Eastern Islands from Th. K. Van Lohuizenlaan:
Former industrial buildings and houseboats on the Cruquiuskade. In the background – De Gooyer, the tallest wooden mill in the Netherlands, nowadays a brewery:
Modern residential complex Funenpark:
Werkspoor Museum (photo #1) and former Werkspoor building (photo #2), Oostenburg:
Living on the water, just opposite of the Eastern Islands (Wittenburgergracht):
Kadijken area, just accross the water from the Eastern Islands:
Kattenburgerplein, including Dutch Maritime Museum: