Eastern islands

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Eastern islandsAs a result of the major urban expansion in the seventeenth century the shipping industry had to move out and the choice for relocation fell, due to its location, on the area to the north of Hoogte Kadijk. This area that was originally part of the River IJ emerged from raising the ground elevation (‘filling in’). These three filled-in ‘Eastern Islands’ (Oostelijke eilanden) are from west to east: Kattenburg, Wittenburg and Oostenburg. Many businesses involved in shipping set up here, such as shipyards and bulk storage facilities.

On the western section of Kattenburg the Admiralty of Amsterdam, now the Royal Dutch Navy took up quarters. The impressive former depot of the navy that emerges from the water and that can be seen clearly from the Nemo dates from 1656 and became in 1972 the new home to the Nautical Museum. The museum is undergoing renovation and will remain closed until the end of 2010. The collection consisting of paintings, scale models and weapons provides an impression of the illustrious nautical past of the Netherlands.

Where Kattenburg was always more of a residential area (completely renewed in the 1960s), Oostenburg was traditionally an industrial area. The Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie [East Indies Company] built here around 1800 its yards, but the best days of the V.O.C. and the shipping industry were by then past and steel and heavy industry took the area over. But that time is now also past and with the departure of machine manufacturer Stork the last manufacturer in Oostenburg disappeared and the area is changing rapidly into a trendy neighborhood. What were once the manufacturing halls of Stork are, while retaining their industrial character, being converted into venues for events like the ‘Theatre Factory’ and ‘Amsterdam Convention Factory’.

Wittenburg, the most heavily populated of the three islands became seriously overfull as a result of the explosive population expansion at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The houses had become reduced to hovels. After the Second World War plans were made to clean up the neighborhood. The derelict houses were demolished and replaced.

The three islands are linked by the so-called ‘island boulevard’ that runs along Nieuwevaart. There are shops and restaurants and bars on this boulevard, including the traditional smokehouse loved by so many Amsterdammers of Frank Heyn. Halfway along Nieuwevaart, at Wittenburg is Oosterkerk that dates from the second half of the seventeenth century. On the other side of Nieuwevaart is the museum ‘t Kromhout’, a shipyard from 1757, which now houses a museum where you can still see old steam machines, engines and a workplace with smithy as these used to be. You will also see old ships and find people moving about who are very knowledgeable on the old craft of shipbuilding.

The eastern islands can be reached by foot from Central Station or by bus line 42, 22 and 32 or tramline 26.

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