Häuserzeile Holländisches Viertel

Why does Pots­dam, 500 km (311 miles) away from the Net­her­lands, fea­ture a Dutch Quarter?

For a num­ber of rea­sons. Pots­dam, sur­roun­ded by the river and lakes of the Havel, is built on swam­py ground with a high ground­water table. Even today, it is tech­ni­cal­ly-chal­len­ging buil­ding ground.

In 1732, the Prus­si­an King, Fre­de­rick Wil­liam I (1688–1740), known as the ‘Sol­dier King’, wan­ted to extend his city of resi­dence, Pots­dam, to the north. From two excur­si­ons to Hol­land, he was awa­re of the hydrau­lic engi­nee­ring skills of the Dutch, who wre­sted their coun­try from the sea.

Friedrich Wihelm I. von Preußen 1733
(1) Fre­de­rick Wil­liam I (A. Pes­ne, 1733)

He was able to secu­re the ser­vices of the Dutch master buil­der Jan Bou­man for the plan­ning and exe­cu­ti­on of the city expan­si­on, but also wan­ted to attract Dutch craft­smen for the bene­fit of the city.

To ensu­re that they didn’t feel too much like out­si­ders, Fre­de­rick Wil­liam had four blocks with Dutch-style hou­ses built from 1733 along with the city expan­si­on. The craft­smen were to be encou­ra­ged to come to the March of Bran­den­burg with a right of abo­de in the­se hou­ses and other pri­vi­le­ges. Suc­cess, howe­ver, remain­ed modest: in his life­time, only four Dutch fami­lies moved into the new­ly-built quarter.

Fol­lo­wing his death, the quarter’s two eastern blocks, inclu­ding this hou­se, were com­ple­ted in the peri­od up to 1742 under his son, Fre­de­rick II (the Gre­at), with the rich­ly-deco­ra­ted hou­ses on the west side of Bas­sinplatz and in Char­lot­ten­stra­ße being added later.

Gloriette auf dem Bassinplatz, Potsdam
(2) Glo­ri­et­te on Bas­sinplatz around 1942

Bas­sinplatz, to the south of the quar­ter, ori­gi­nal­ly fea­tured a lar­ge pond into which the buil­ding site of the Dutch Quar­ter was drai­ned. In the midd­le of the basin stood a pavi­li­on, the Glo­ri­et­te, on a small island. Over time, the basin sil­ted up and was ulti­m­ate­ly drai­ned around 1870. The Glo­ri­et­te sur­vi­ved all the wars but was destroy­ed by the Soviets in 1946 to be repla­ced by the monu­ment which still stands the­re today.

The quar­ter con­sists of hou­ses with dif­fe­rent basic types among which the simp­le, triaxi­al buil­dings with the swee­ping gab­les are the most striking.

Giebelhäuser im Holländischen Viertel
Gab­led hou­ses in Mittelstraße

Accor­ding to a Dutch­man of my acquain­tance, the fronts of the Dutch ori­gi­nals are nar­rower and more high­ly deco­ra­ted than here in Pots­dam. The oldest of the rows of hou­ses in the quar­ter, the south side of Mit­tel­stra­ße loca­ted bet­ween Fried­rich-Ebert-Stra­ße and Ben­kert­stra­ße, shows a series of uni­form gab­led hou­ses; only later did the faca­des along the streets beco­me more varied.

Traufenhaus im Holländischen Viertel
Eaved hou­ses in Gutenbergstraße

As pre­ser­va­ti­on orders for secu­lar buil­dings only beca­me wide­spread after the turn of the cen­tu­ry, many of the hou­ses were alte­red in the 19th cen­tu­ry: We find level­led gab­les, flo­ors added, lar­ger win­dows and dif­fe­rent shut­ters, bal­co­nies, shop win­dows. Today, many of the faca­des have been pain­ted over in a brick sha­de to con­ce­al reno­va­tions car­ri­ed out in bricks of a dif­fe­rent colour. My hou­se too was remoul­ded during the Wil­hel­mi­an era; this can be seen in the pic­tures below, and the door recalls it to this day. The rest of the faca­de was retur­ned to an appro­xi­ma­ti­on of its ori­gi­nal Baro­que form during resto­ra­ti­on work on the hou­se around 1990 and given the look it has today.

Hebbelstraße 56 1936/2020
(3) Molt­ke­stra­ße (today Heb­bel­stra­ße) 56 in 1936 and today

Six of the hou­ses in the quar­ter were lost in the bom­bing of Pots­dam by the Roy­al Air Force on the night of April 14, 1945 and as a result of slow decay during the days of the GDR. With the excep­ti­on of two (Guten­berg­stra­ße 69 and 81), they have all been rebuilt. The last hou­se in this row is to emer­ge again soon on the emp­ty site to the left of my house.

Kreuzung Benkertstraße Gutenbergstraße

The Dutch Quar­ter fea­tures a lively mix of pre­mi­ses for living and working; the­re are many restau­rants and cafés, shops, stu­di­os, work­shops. It is a quar­ter with a high qua­li­ty of life and, thanks to its cen­tral loca­ti­on, also a good start­ing point for your undertakings.

Text and pho­to­graphs © 2021 Ernst Eimer. Repro­duc­tion not per­mit­ted.
Images (1), (2) and (3): public domain

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