Recently, a friend loaned me a book about Amsterdam gevelstenen (stone plaques) by Onno W. Boers.
A system of house numbering was introduced in Amsterdam in 1795; all the plaques on the front of buildings before this date acted as house signs so that visitors and merchants could find the relevant building. One lived in the ‘The Black Sheep,’ ‘The Red Lion’ or ‘The Milkmaid,’ – or the house opposite or next to it.
Often plaques functioned as advertising boards for the trade of the builder or resident. Sometimes it included a play of words on the name of the builder or hinted at the origins of the owner. Very often they have a mythological or enigmatic significance which we can only guess at. During a recent tour of the Red Light District I discovered that a plaque showing a swan indicated that a prostitute worked in the building in the times before prostitution was legal! Here are a few photos of my favourites and where in Amsterdam they can be found. Why not just take off with your camera and notebook and find a few for yourself? I’d love to hear what you discover!