The Dam Royal Palace (Paleis op de Dam) in Amsterdam
The great Amsterdam Dam Palace was built in the 17th century as a City Hall. Here, as in so many Amsterdam buildings, a large part of the work was underground, a foundation had to be constructed by driving down through the mud and shifting sand into the firm clay beneath no less than 13,659 wooden piles. But upon this costly substructure a great building was raised. It has a frontage of 264 feet, a depth of 197 feet, and is surmounted by a cupola, containing a chime of bells, and bearing upon its summit, 187 feet above the ground, the appropriate symbol of a gilded ship. From this cupola a very fine view is obtained, the eye ranging over a large part of the province of North Holland.
The gables are embellished with fine bas-reliefs from the hand of Artus Quellin ; the anterior symbolising the city by a maiden seated, holding in her right hand a shield, and in her left a rod. Nymphs surround her, some offering garlands and some pouring at her feet fruits from the ends of the earth. Neptune is also represented, and his tritons are blowing the shell and publishing abroad the renown of the city. The posterior exhibits a woman surrounded by all kinds of naval instruments and apparatus.
Personifications of the IJ and the Amstel sit at her feet, and the inhabitants of remote regions are offering the productions of their respective lands. On the apex of the posterior gable stands Atlas, bending beneath the weight of the globe. The interior has been injured as far as possible by attempting to adapt it to a royal residence furnished in the French style of the early part of this century. It still retains many signs of its original character and use. The decorations of the various rooms were adapted to the various civil functions to be there discharged.
In the secretary's room, a figure of Silence, with finger on her lips, inculcates secrecy, and the figure of a dog watching his dead master, fidelity. In the room where bankruptcy business was attended to, a representation of Daedalus and Icarus conveyed an obvious lesson. The chief glory of the building is the superb Reception Room, 117 feet long, 57 feet wide, and 100 feet high, the roof being supported without any recourse to columns. The walls of this magnificent apartment are entirely lined with fine Italian marble, this feature alone presenting not only a very impressive appearance to the eye, but also conveying a wonderful sense of the power and wealth of a Republic that could so adorn the Town Hall of its chief municipality.
The centre of the marble floor is adorned by a representation, in copper, of the firmament. Above the entrance is a figure of Justice, with Ignorance and Quarrelsomeness at her feet; to the left Punishment, to the right a skeleton, and above Atlas supporting the globe. On the walls are flags and trophies captured from the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.
Truly this old burgomasters hall throws a flood of light over the past, and quickens our understanding of and appreciation for the men who could navigate the unknown seas of the world; who could wrest from Spain the supremacy both by sea and land; who could win back the soil of their native land from the ever-restless, ever-destructive ocean; and who could erect such noble buildings for the conduct of their official duties and responsibilities. Almost contemporary with the mighty development of Amsterdam's commercial greatness, this splendid building has for three centuries and a half looked upon the busy seething life of the Dam.