Haarlem City Hall

Haarlem, Netherlands

Around 1100 a wooden building was constructed on the location of the current Gravenzaal of the City Hall. Traces of this building were found in 1955. After large fires in 1347 and 1351, William II, Count of Holland donated the remains of the Gravenzaal to the city's municipality. A new building was built there. The central square building dates from the Middle Ages, but the distinctive façade of the building was designed by architect Lieven de Key and built from 1602-1604. The way it originally looked can be seen in a painting from 1460 by the Master of Bellaert. Originally the city hall was just the front of the building, and the rear cloister belonged to the Dominican brotherhood. After the Protestant Reformation this came into the possession of the city council and it is now a large complex with offices and meeting rooms. Both the Frans Hals Museum and the Haarlem Public Library originally were located in the city hall.

The town hall was traditionally a gathering place for various gentlemen, and the Dutch Society of Science started meeting there in 1752, which was the beginning of a municipal museum for natural history, that today no longer exists, though its 'competitor' founded in 1781 still does; namely the Teylers Museum. When they moved out, the paintings stayed and they became the Haarlem municipal museum, which moved out in 1913 to become the Frans Hals museum.

A large number of paintings and objects from Haarlem's rich history can be found inside the building. One series of paintings depict the various counts of Holland, starting from Dirk I to Maximilian from Austria. In the Middle Ages these paintings were hanging in the Carmelieten Cloister in Haarlem; they were painted between 1486 and 1491. In 1570 it is mentioned in city archives that the paintings were hanging in the City Hall; possibly they were moved there in 1566 to protect them from the iconoclastic riots. Other paintings and objects are either part of the original interior, or too big to fit in the Frans Hals Museum.

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Founded: 14th century
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Netherlands

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