The Museum Square In the 17th Century
In the 17th century there were windmills and farms on the spot that we now know as the Museum Square. The last windmill was removed in 1878 at the place where the Rijksmuseum now stands. Royal Coster Diamonds has been around longer than the Rijksmuseum, which was opened in 1885, but in the early years, Royal Coster Diamonds was located in a different place.
Residential areaThe plan was that a residential area with villas would be built on the Museum Square, with the Rijksmuseum as the entrance gate. The location of the square was perfect because of its location between the PC Hooftstraat and the Boerenwetering. Since this time the museum district has been a luxury area. The area behind the Rijksmuseum, which now is a grassfield, was then used for a total of two world exhibitions and in winter as an ice rink, with the occasional important skating competition. At that time, the Museum square was really known as an ice club site. Nowadays there is also an ice rink on the Museum Square in winter, but in a slightly different form.
Councilor and architect of the Rijksmuseum, P.J.H. Cuypers was convinced that a residential area was not a good idea. He saw possibilities to turn the area into a square, since he knew all important cities had this. In addition, a square would look very good behind the Rijksmuseum. Finally a compromise was made in 1903 when a lawn was planted with trees, and villas were built around that. In this period the square got the name Museumplein.
World War Two
During the Second World War, the Museumsquare was the place where the Nazis were stationed. The ice club that used to be on the Museum Square also disappeared from the Museumsquare during this time. The square was widely used by the Germans for rallies and Nazi propaganda. The building which is now used as a United States consulate, was then used as the headquarters of the German army and police. The museums that were on the museum square were all occupied by the Germans. From there, the Germans had a good overview of the museums from the consulate, in case art was stolen by the Dutch. At the end of the war, the Museum Square was no longer accessible to the inhabitants of Amsterdam. It was fenced off with barbed wire and all the greenery there turned into sand. Bunkers were built near the museums. The Germans knew they were losing the war. A bomb shelter was even built in case the Allies came. After the war, these bunkers were demolished and the Museum Square was rebuilt.
In 1953, clinker bricks were laid at the extended part of the passage of the Rijksmuseum, this passage became a traffic junction. This road was also known as the shortest highway in the Netherlands. This highway has never been longer than 500 meters. The road had four lanes and even though the speed limit was 50 km/h, people always drove fast. This road should have become a highway to The Hague, so that Amsterdam as the capital would be more accessible. This highway was never intended to be this short, but it was never extended due to protests by the neighborhood. In fact, John Körmeling wanted to make it a 24-lane highway, which would also make it the widest highway in the Netherlands. This short road made the Museum Square an attractive parking lot for buses with tourists. In 1997 it was decided that the Museum Square was no place for a road and a pond was placed on the spot that used to be the highway.
The Museum District is of course known for the many museums it has. Royal Coster Diamonds and the Diamond Museum are also located in this beautiful district, but where did it all start? The Rijksmuseum was the first museum to be opened in 1885. Throughout the years this has expanded to the approximately 50 museums that exist on the Museum Square today. The Moco museum is the newest museum on the square; it has been there since April 2016. There are world-famous museums on the Museumsquare, but there are also smaller, unknown museums. In 2004 the municipality of Amsterdam noticed people were not as interested in the city anymore. Tourism went down, people and companies did not move there as much. That's why the municipality decided to put the well known 'I Amsterdam' letters at the pond. These letters were removed in 2018 however, after they attracted too many tourists. Nowadays, the Museum Square with all its museums is a nice place for tourists, but also for residents who love art and culture.