Construction and interior

Affiche van de Artis Schouwburg, 1892 (foto Gemeente Archief Amsterdam).The Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre) was designed by architect Bombach, who gained considerable inspiration for this work from buildings he had seen abroad. Construction began on 9 October 1891 and seven months later a splendid building was completed .

You entered the Hollandsche Schouwburg through a double entrance door leading into a white-marbled hall. The public entered the auditorium from this hall or ascended the staircase to reach the balconies and boxes. There was seating for an audience of 1,360 in the auditorium, divided into various sections. Each section had its own coffee room where the public could go during the interval. The auditorium was white and illuminated by an immense chandelier with 140 gaslights. In the daytime light filtered in through the stained glass of the ceiling. The stage was fifteen metres deep and almost eleven metres wide. The orchestra pit was sunk low in front of the stage, so that musicians didn't block the audience's view. Above the stage hung a construction of pipes, which was in order to spray water in case fire should break out. There were emergency exits in the building, and fire escapes. In 1892 such safety measures were very modern and many journalist wrote enthusiastically about these precautions.

Plantage Middenlaan 24

The Hollandsche Schouwburg was built right in the centre of a nineteenth-century neighbourhood of Amsterdam known as the Plantage.  Formerly, the home of Dr Westerman, a director of the Amsterdam Zoo (called Artis) stood at number 24, Plantage Middenlaan. The zoo on the opposite side of the street gave its name to the theatre, which in the first two years of its life was called Artis Schouwburg (Artis Theatre).

On 5 May 1892 the new theatre was officially opened. The Artis Theatre was the fourth theatre to be built in this up-market entertainment area with many resDe Plantage Middenlaan 24 anno 1904. De Hollandsche Schouwburg is het derde gebouw van links (collectie JHM).taurants and cafés. It was also the largest and most luxurious. Operettas were performed there. The gala opening was a performance of De Mascotte (The Mascot) and was a huge success.  

During the celebrations marking the theatre's opening in 1892, the following optimistic rhyme was written: The temple is completed! Whatever may fall and decay, Artis Theatre will live forever. Two years later, however, due to fierce competition from other theatres including the Frascati (later Rika Hopper Theatre) just down the street, Artis Theatre was bankrupt. After that, the building was known as the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theatre).


De zaal zoals die na de renovatie van 1930 eruit zag (foto Nederlands Theater Instituut).After forty years of intensive use, the interior of the Hollandsche Schouwburg was looking a little jaded and the building was given a complete re-styling by architect Wolter Bakker. After the renovation there were only two of the original three balconies, and now the theatre sat about 800 people. The stained glass was removed from the ceiling. Thus the auditorium was sealed off from daylight and was now illuminated by electric lighting. The stage was also reduced in size. The front façade with its classical groups of statues remained unchanged. When the building came into use about twelve years later as deportation centre it looked very much as Bakker had designed it in 1930.