Since its construction in the late fifteenth century, the Waag (or Weigh House) has served a number of different purposes.
Beyond the Gate
When it was built in 1488, the building most residents know as De Waag or The Weigh House, was intended to be one of Amsterdam’s three main city gates. This particular one was known as Oude Sint Antoniespoort (old St. Anthony’s Gate). The gate served its purpose until about a century later – in 1601 – when the city tore down its walls to make room for expansion.
Amsterdam needed to find a new purpose for this beautifully ornate gate and settled upon using it as a weigh house. Goods were – obviously – weighed here, and it was also in this building that taxes were levied.
The upper floors of the gate were used for other purposes. One of the larger rooms served as a guardroom for the city’s militia, while other rooms were designated for members of particular guilds such as surgeons, blacksmiths, masons, and artists. Doors that led to these rooms were adorned with a symbol of that particular guild.
Some of the guilds made changes to the building, including adding staircases and ornamental decorations. The surgeon’s guild even built a sort of “theater” for anatomical lessons, which were often open to the public!
After the Guilds
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, when most of the guilds were disbanded, the building became empty, save for the immense collection of medical memorabilia for which the surgeon’s guild could find no home.
Through the next two centuries, many different tenants occupied the Waag, ranging from a factory that produced fine furnishings to a fire station. For six years, it served as the Amsterdam Historical Museum, and for many additional years, the Jewish Historical Museum.
The dark period for the Stadswaag came during the early nineteenth century, when Napoleon ordered public executions be performed here.
In 1996, the Restaurant-Café In de Waag opened inside the weigh house. Lit by three hundred candles and high-hanging candelabras, the castle-like restaurant serves lunch and dinner and is available for special functions. A light breakfast and coffee is available as early as 10 am.