News Articles

Amsterdam merchants gave Vechtstreek a unique heritage

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Dutch municipality Stichtse Vecht, formed through the fairly recent merger of Breukelen, Loenen and Maarssen, has a rich and a long history. The Stichtse Vecht showcases this very well considering that its administrative centre is housed in an early buitenplaats, a rural lodge called Goudestein, built by fabulously rich Amsterdam merchant Jan Jacobszoon Huydecoper.

Huydecoper was not the first merchant to invest surplus funds into rural area real estate but is a pioneer investor in the Vecht region – in Dutch known as the Vechtstreek – located between the central Dutch provincial capital of Utrecht and Amsterdam. He and his fellow merchants who followed his example put their stamp on the area, turning it, now more important than ever, into a must see history-rich tourism destination.

The course of the Utrecht Vecht River, which splits off from the Old Rhine River near or at the site of the long-gone Roman fort Fectio, thought to be origin of the name Vecht, had much appeal to Amsterdam merchant investors. Huydecoper’s lodge is thought to have been built as a rental property, but if so, it certainly would have required renters with deep pockets. Fact is, that Vecht River shoulder properties attracted hundreds of merchants who all built easily accessible summer lodges along the waterway.

Looking today at the Stichtse Vecht municipal hall, it is obvious that it is quite spacious and larger than many houses lining the canals in Amsterdam. Various sources describe Goudestein as a soberly built manor, suggesting that others later spent far more lavishly on their plans than Huydecoper did on his.

The merchant class also drained lakes to create polders and farmland, dug canals and straightened rivers, and purchased peatbogs as a (profitable) source for heating fuel. Their patronage of the arts is altogether another subject, best left for another feature.

To obtain this well illustrated Utrechtse Vechtstreek article free of charge, subscribe to the Windmill Herald / the Windmill Post, and request your copy of the September 9, 2011 issue. Additional copies may be ordered by contacting the publication’s office.