The things I know about gable stones and addresses

When I first moved to Amsterdam in 2003 and was looking for a job, I remember that someone in one job agency handed me a piece of paper with the name of a company and the name of a building. The verbal instructions that followed were something like: “Just around the corner, through the train station, straight ahead and then left. You can’t miss it.”

Well, it turned out I could, and it pretty much took forever before I found the place.

They could have given me the street address instead and I would have found it right away, but that’s Amsterdam for you.

I can just imagine how it must have been to come to Amsterdam in olden days with an address that consisted of nothing but the name of a house and if you were lucky maybe the name of the street.

The houses got their names after their gable stones. Let’s say you were looking for the house with the red hat at the Keizersgracht. Unless you found someone who could point it out for you, you risked to have to walk several kilometers and be careful not to miss the thing, which you easily could, because gable stones are not all that big.

Here is the red hat Den røde hat

And here is the Keizersgracht Keizersgracht

The house owners could put up on their gable stones whatever they thought was important to show to the world. Many had animals like a cow or sheep and they seemed to be quite attached to those animals. So much so that their gable stones showed their animal.

Gavlsten med tyr ANNO 1695 Gavlsten med stork OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Or their fruit tree

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Others used their gable stones as a kind of advertising for their trade

Gavlsten 'DRAAIORGEL AMSTERDAM DE LEVENSGENITER' OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Or they wanted to show that they were good Christians

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Or they found it important to let people know where they originally came from

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Gavlsten 'IN COIGNAC'

Today also the Dutch mostly use the address system the British invented, and which is as follows: In a street that points away from a city’s center  the house numbers will always be lowest near to the city center and get higher the further you get away from it. Furthermore it is always the case that when you stand at the end of the street that is closest to the city center, the uneven numbers are on the left side and the even numbers are on the right side.

 

About these ads

2 thoughts on “The things I know about gable stones and addresses

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 19,103 other followers

%d bloggers like this: