Investing in the polder

Two roads were built through the middle of the new polder: the ‘Middelwech’ (central road) running from north to south and the ‘Kruijswech’ (crossroad) running from east to west. The first houses and farms were built along these two roads and the Ringdijk (ring dyke). Wealthy merchants invested in the reclamation of the polder. They bought plots of land and leased them to farmers. More and more rich people from Amsterdam thankfully abandoned the crowded and malodorous streets of the city in the summer in favour of their farmsteads and country estates with pleasure gardens in the Watergraafsmeer polder.

 

Prosperous residents

Den Vergulden Eenhoorn dates from the early 18th century. The former owner, Mr J. van Meekeren, was a barber surgeon. The name of the building is a reference to his profession. The unicorn was the symbol of physicians and apothecaries due to the medicinal powers which were attributed to the animal’s horn. In 1850, the farmstead was the property of Jan Jacob Beerekamp, a merchant from Amsterdam, who also bought the Klein Dantzig property a short distance away during the same year.

 

Used as a farm

Many farmsteads were demolished to make way for urban expansion, and houses and office buildings were gradually built on the surrounding fields. However, Den Vergulde Eenhoorn was still used as a farm for a considerable time. It is the sole remaining farmstead of its kind in Watergraafsmeer. Vereniging ‘Ons Huis’ (‘Our House’ Society) converted Den Vergulden Eenhoorn into a community centre in the early 1970s. Nowadays part of the building is still used for this purpose.

 

Painting: Martin Monnickendam. Credits: St. Vrienden van de schilder