Canal House for Rich Merchants
Canal houses were once the homes of wealthy Amsterdam merchants. Today, these houses are offices, museums and sometimes hotels. Bartolotti House is one of these eye-catching canal houses in Amsterdam. This mansion is not open to the public; only its exterior can be admired.
Willem van den Heuvel’s house, known as Bartolotti huis stands on Herengracht, a canal where wealthy Amsterdammers lived in opulent mansions. Van den Heuvel earned his money from beer brewing. This was a lucrative business in the seventeenth century. The canals that supplied drinking water were filthy in those days and many breweries sprang up along the canals. Beer was healthier than water and a lot cheaper than tea or coffee.
Not only had Van den Heuvel a thriving business, he also inherited a handsome sum of money from his Italian great-uncle. To honour his uncle, Van den Heuvel changed his first name into Guillelmo and adopted his uncle’s family name, Bartolotti.
Rich and Wealthy
Guillelmo Bartolotti was held in much esteem and had the right connection. He became board member of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC, Dutch East India Company. He gained monopoly of Russian grain and became so rich that he commissioned Hendrick de Keyser, Amsterdam’s most celebrated architect to design a dwelling that fitted his status. “Ring the bell at No 172 during the day and at No 170 at night,” he told his family, friends and business associates.
Bartolotti House still graces Herengracht. It is a slightly curved building that follows the bend of the canal. The flashy façade of red brick and stone features urns, scrolls and pilasters. This step-gabled mansion is far more ornate than any other Amsterdam canal house. Two inscribed ornamental panels reflect Bartolotti’s temperament but also show what seventeenth-century bourgeoisie considered important; virtues are at the basis of commercial success.
The inscriptions read: Ingenio et Assiduo Labore (through talents and diligence) and Religione and Probitate’ (through piousness and virtue).
Herengracht 170 – 172
Photo credit Marianne Crone & Albert van den Boomen