Power Display In Masonry

According to the Amsterdam Courant “a great noise” should have sounded during the night of Saturday April 13 to Sunday, 14th, 1822 on Oostenburg. Which is not surprising, during that night half the grain warehouse by Cruys and Co. plunged to the ground. The crash site immediately attracted a lot of attention and the picturesque ruin was soon immortalized by various artists. This attention was not for nothing, the collapsed building was in fact not just a warehouse, but the former Sea warehouse of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).

The console with leaping lions from the former East Indian Country House, Department of Monuments and Archaeology
The console with leaping lions from the former East India Country House, photo Department of Monuments and Archaeology

The VOC Zeemagazijn (Sea warehouse) dominated from 1660 to 1822 the streets of Oostenburg. It was part of the extensive shipyard complex on the isle of Oostenburg, where between 1665 and 1799 five hundred East-India ships were built. The central warehouse, also known as the East India Country House, was with a length of 215 meters (705 feet), width of 25 meters (82 feet), four floors and a double loft the largest industrial building in the Netherlands. It formed a link between Amsterdam and Asia. Thus, the supply went from the town of outgoing VOC ships from the Sea warehouse and this was the place where in Asia it brought back goods as porcelain and spices were stored prior to further distribution. Exclusive import products that can now be seen in the exhibition “Asia> Amsterdam. Luxury in the Golden Age” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, USA. (until June 5, 2016*) Only after providing a demolition permit in 1829 the building finally disappeared from the cityscape.

Etching of King William I visiting the ruins of the East Indian Sea warehouse by A. Lutz, J. Jacobs & Co., 1822, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Etching of King William I visiting the ruins of the East Indian Sea warehouse by A. Lutz, J. Jacobs & Co., 1822, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Last October, archaeologists from Monuments and Archaeology used the redevelopment of Oostenburg immediately to dig next to the Van Gendt-halls to see if there were still traces of the past VOC were present. Three meters below the road surface foundation remains were as expected found of the Zeemagazijn. The allure of the Sea warehouse is properly reflected in one of the finds, a stone console that has landed in a ditch after the demolition in 1829. This construction fragment (83 x 32 x 19 cm) was originally designed, and was cemented in a wall piece, the projecting part is decorated with two forward-catching lions. Another example of such a show of force in the masonry of a business can be found in the Shipping House (Scheepvaarthuis) on the Prins Hendrikkade. Here the viewer is impressed by the heads of seafaring heroes who are stabbing out of the wall.

*“Asia> Amsterdam. Luxury in the Golden Age” was on show at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam from October 17, 2015 to January 17, 2016.