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A Guide To Amsterdam's Windmills

De Bloem | © National Cultural Heritage/WikiCommons
Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 26 November 2016
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Out of the hundreds of windmills that populated Amsterdam’s skyline during the Dutch Golden Age and early modern period, only eight of these monumental machines remain standing inside the city. These iconic structures are visible reminders of the Netherlands’ technological prowess, and many were employed to shape the land around Amsterdam.

Molen De 1200 Roe

Like many mills in the Netherlands, Molen De 1200 Roe was built to drain the country’s swampy marshlands and helped to create a dry, fertile greenbelt around Amsterdam. The mill was constructed in 1632 and remained operational until the middle of the 20th century, after which it was converted into a residential building.

De Bloem

Although the name of this mill translates into English as ‘flower,’ it was originally called de Blom, which in Old-Dutch means stronghold. It was designated with this title due to its strategic location on the outer ring of Amsterdam’s canal network. While the mill itself wasn’t fortified, it was once part of Amsterdam’s western defense line, looking out towards Haarlem, where it ground grain for the city’s residents.

D’Admiraal

In the late 18th century, a Dutch naval officer called Roelof de Leeuw decided to turn his hand to industry and commissioned the construction of D’Adirmaal – a name that reflected its owner’s maritime accomplishments. This mill was designed to crush and mix compounds that were used to create mortar. D’Admiraal is currently owned by the Dutch television director Harm-Ydo Hilberdink.

De Gooyer

This towering grain mill was built in the early 17th century and was originally part of a long line of windmills that stood on Amsterdam’s eastern city walls. While these other machines were eventually destroyed or disassembled, de Gooyer managed to survive and was moved to its current location in 1814. Today, it is owned by Amsterdam’s municipality and is situated next to Brouwerij h’ Ij – a famous craft brewer that stamps its beers with a label featuring de Gooyer.

De Riekermolen

In the early 17th century, de Riekermolen was constructed to reclaim a swampy area on the western banks of the river Amstel. Its sails powered an elaborate system of pumps that drained water from the land, eventually leading to the creation of a large, low-lying tract called a polder. Rembrandt often traveled to this part of Amsterdam to make sketches of its rustic landscapes, and a statue of the artist can be found next to de Riekermolen.

De Otter

This enormous, wooden, sawmill was originally part of a large network of machines that was constructed on the western side of the Singel canal. At the time, this area was largely unpopulated and marked Amsterdam’s city limits, meaning that the wind flowed completely unabated from Noord-Holland’s hinterland. Amsterdam’s borders expanded around de Otter, and today, it is surrounded by a residential neighborhood called Frederik Hendrikbuurt.

Molen van Sloten

During the 19th century, this thatched, octagonal mill was used as a drainage station and kept Amsterdam’s southern water levels at a manageable constant. Although it is still operational, Molen van Sloten now also contains a museum that features several fascinating exhibitions which cover the mill’s history and purpose.

De Akermolen

Only the base of de Akermolen is still standing, and today, its octagonal foundation houses a cozy tearoom. Its sails were among the largest in the Netherlands during the 19th century but were unfortunately dismantled before the Second World War. Afterward, de Akermolen became a national monument and was eventually purchased by its current owners.

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