History of the West-Indies House

The history of the National Monument (number 1372) the West Indies House goes back to the 17th century in which Peter Stuyvesant, one of the commanders of the West Indies Company (WIC), commissioned the construction of the Nieuw Amsterdam fort on the island of Manhattan, which later became New York City.

The building was built in 1617 as a meat hall (on the ground floor) and a waiting room for the militia mill (on the upper floor). In 1623 the building was rented by the WIC, which had been established two years earlier, and used until 1647 for the meetings of the Heren XIX, the directors of the WIC.

Engraving the West Indies House from the IJ side

The building was expanded during this period with two wings around a courtyard, making it three times as large. The loot of the Silver Fleet captured by Piet Hein in 1628 was stored in the cellars of the West Indies House upon return to the Netherlands.

From 1657 the building on the Herenmarkt was rented out as an inn under the name Nieuwezijds Heerenlogement. From 1825 it served as an orphanage and retirement home of the Hersteld Evangelische Diaconie. The house underwent renovations whereby the high sidewalk disappeared and the facade was plastered.

West Indian House east wing

In 1954 the building was occupied by the textile wholesaler De Vries van Buuren & Co, a company with mainly Jewish staff that was closed on Saturdays and the Jewish holidays. The offices of this business were located on the ground floor, above were the various sales departments, while the stocks were stored in the attics. The company had the cellars restored and had many old tiles installed. The basement was used as a canteen. The textile wholesaler remained in the West Indies House until December 16, 1975, when the property was largely destroyed by a fire, probably caused by a stray flare that penetrated between the roof tiles and set the attic-laden attics in fire. The abandoned building had a hard time in the following period. Uninhabited, they entered the path and, in an attempt to steal it, destroyed thousands of precious tiles.

The West Indian House after the 1975 fire

To save the rapidly deteriorating building from collapse, the West Indies House Foundation was set up on 4 February 1977 to restore and manage the building, with Ton Koot as chairman. The restoration lasted from 1978 to 1981 and cost 12 million guilders. A fountain was placed in the courtyard with a bronze statue of Peter Stuyvesant (governor of New Netherland), sculpted by Hans Bayens. After the renovation, old people’s homes, the Volksuniversiteit and the municipal wedding halls were housed in the building.

The West Indies House north wing ground floor fireplaceThe West Indies House basement west wing 1978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, almost four hundred years later, the monumental building offers spacious meeting rooms, sublime catering (a matter of TASTE catering), a café – restaurant (Café Nieuw Amsterdam) and above all a special environment for various events.

In short: the West Indies House has been modernized with respect for its past.