Emergency housing

The end of the nineteenth century saw massive immigration of farmers to the city because of the agricultural crisis and the industrial revolution. The population of Amsterdam doubled. The socialist city fathers wanted to prevent further decay of the city by building good quality homes for workers. But because the housing shortage was so severe, they built four ‘emergency villages’ in North: Obelt or ‘Ericadorp’, that was demolished at the end of the 1930s; Asterdorp, demolished in the 1950s; and Disteldorp and Vogeldorp (villages).

 

Front of bathhouse, 1975

Forerunners to the garden cities

The emergency villages were cheap forerunners of the famous garden cities of North. The houses had a front and back garden, there were good facilities and many green spaces. A female superintendant was appointed to keep an eye on everything. She made sure, for example, that the poor Vogeldorp residents did not remove the planks from the cupboards to use as firewood.

 

Bathhouse custodian cleaning, 1978

Unity

While some people were ashamed of their poor neighbourhood, the ‘we and them’ feeling also ensured unity. During funerals, coffins were carried past all the houses. If one of the residents had a record player, he ran the cables for a small fee to other houses to ‘share’ it.

 

The former bathhouse, 2008

Free birds

Vogeldorp has been renovated five times. Several plans were made to demolish it. But thanks to the action group the ‘Vrije Vogels’ (free birds), Vogeldorp and Disteldorp are still in existence. The bath house was already redundant during the last renovation as everyone had a shower by then. In 2009 it opened its doors as the first museum about the history of Amsterdam–North.