This time Amsterdam by Night takes a stroll through arguably the most famous neighbourhood of Amsterdam: "De Jordaan". The Jordaan roughly describes the area between Prinsengracht, Brouwersgracht, Lijnbaansgracht and Leidsegracht. The Jordaan evolved from a real working class neighbourhood till on of the most beloved residential districts of Amsterdam. Although the residents have changed, the district managed to keep its character. There are still many small shops, cosy bars and tiny streets through which you can endlessly roam around.
17th century city expansion
Until the start of the 17th century, the Singel formed the western city limit, but the extensive population growth in the "Golden Age" increased the need for living space. This resulted in 1612 in the construction of the canal belt, which provided houses for the rich inhabitants of Amsterdam. At the same time, a working class district called the "Nieuwe Werck" was laid out in the rural areas to the west of Prinsengracht. This district was characterized by tiny houses following the original ditches in the area, this in strong contrast with the spacious building along the carefully planned canal belt. This gave the district that would later be known as the Jordaan its feeling of an independent part of Amsterdam.
At first, Jordaan provided more than enough living space for its inhabitants and there was even room for little gardens and orchards. 1620 saw the start of construction of both the Westerkerk and Noorderkerk. As the population kept increasing, the neighbourhood was quickly filled in with houses and shops. Continuing growth resulted in the heightening and splitting of existing houses into more and smaller living spaces. The standard of living decreased sharply and the Jordaan became one of the most impoverished parts of Amsterdam. During the 19th century, living conditions deteriorated reached such low levels that the city government had to take action. Many houses were renovated or replaced through some of the first social housing projects in the Netherlands. During this period, many canals were filled in to improve hygiene. Although the standard of living slowly increased, Jordaan remained overcrowded and poor.
From working class to trendy district
At the start of the 20th century, Jordaan was still a poor working class district with many social problems. Several times its inhabitants revolted against the government, with several deaths as a result. The februari-staking (a city-wide strike against the German occupation during the second world war) was the result of a protest at Noordermarkts. After the war the city made plans to renovate the whole area, mainly through demolition and replacement of the original buildings. These plans met a lot of resistance from within the Jordaan and the city as a whole, as it meant the destruction of many monumental buildings. The renovation plan was eventually withdrawn, keeping most of Jordaan in its original state. The '60s saw a renewed interest in the neighbourhood, with many entrepreneurs, artists and students flocking to this part of Amsterdam. Slowly the Jordaan area transformed from an impoverished neighbourhood to the hip district as we know it today.
The name “Jordaan”
The origin of the name Jordaan is unclear, as the neighbourhood was initially known as the "Nieuwe Werck". 1718 sees the first mentioning of the name Jordaan in a poem. The most likely explanation for the name Jordaan is as a reference to Prinsengracht as the Jordan river, with the neighbourhood slowly taking over the name. Another explanations is the referral to the French word for garden "Jardin", mainly pointing to the many little gardens and the streets named after flowers and trees.
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