Justice in the polder

‘Herberg het Regthuys’ (Courthouse Inn) was built some time after the reclamation of the new Watergraafsmeer polder in 1629. This inn, the predecessor of the present court building, was used for trading, eating and drinking, and people could also spend the night there. This was very convenient for visitors arriving at the city of Amsterdam late at night only to find the city gates closed. Most importantly, the building was used for the administration of justice. The penalties imposed here on offenders in the 17th and 18th centuries were far from lenient.


New elegance

Caspar Philips Jacobsz. (1732-1789) designed the new courthouse, giving it a stately neoclassical look with details in the style of Louis XVI. King Louis Napoleon was presented with the keys to the city of Amsterdam in front of the courthouse in 1808. Although the administration of justice still remained the main function of the new courthouse, it was also used for other purposes: the innkeeper lived above the courtroom, rent for farmland was collected there, and the Hoogheemraadschap (district water board) held meetings there. The residents of Watergraafsmeer could even attend concerts and plays in the upper rooms of the building at a later date. Watergraafsmeer was incorporated into the municipality of Amsterdam in 1921, which meant that the building was no longer used for the administration of justice. In 1934, the building was purchased by the Amsterdamsche Bank, which merged with the ABN AMRO Bank later on. The bank has meanwhile vacated the premises. The courthouse will be assigned a different use once again in the future, although we do not yet know what this will be.


Image: C. Philips Jacobsz, 1778