Reguliersdwarsstraat has an interesting history as this street has been influenced by the wealth, as well as the poverty of surrounding neighbourhoods and has become a place for a wide variety of both gay and straight people...
The important episodes of the history of the street are related to the areas marked on this map:
Reguliersdwarsstraat has its name from a late mediaeval cloister of priests who lived according to the rule of Saint Augustine. Hence they were called regular canons (in Dutch: reguliere kanunniken). This cloister was build in 1394 and was situated not very far away from present-day Reguliersdwarsstraat. It was destroyed by fire in 1532.
Birds-eye view of Amsterdam on a painting from 1538
In the upper left the former cloister of the regular canons
Later on, a few streets, a canal and a square were named after this cloister by the prefix Reguliers. Reguliersdwarsstraat is the street which lies more or less transverse (dwars) to the broad Reguliersbreestraat, which was the main street leading from the former Regulierssquare (now Rembrandt square) into the old city centre.
1586 - 1800
Reguliersdwarsstraat itself was constructed in 1586, when a new fortification was build to protect the city. As walls couldn't resist canons anymore, the new fortifications consisted of an earthen rampart with bulwarks. These skirted the southside of Reguliersdwarsstraat, so at that time houses were only build along the northside:
Detail of a map of Amsterdam from 1640 with
Reguliersdwarsstraat alongside the city wall
In 1664 the fortifications of 1586 were leveled in order to construct the new Herengracht. This canal was part of the large city expansion plan, which included the construction of the famous concentric canals (the so called grachtengordel).
The part of Herengracht right behind Reguliersdwarsstraat was called the Golden Bend (Gouden Bocht), because here were the big and stately houses of the rich merchants and regents of Amsterdam:
Painting of the Golden Bend, end of the 17th century
At the northside of Herengracht, these houses stood on lots reaching all the way to the southside of Reguliersdwarsstraat. This made it possible to have large gardens behind the big houses and stables and coach-houses alongside Reguliers- dwarsstraat. Nowadays there are still 19 of such coach-houses left, easily recognizable by the huge front doors.
1800 - 1945
Around 1800 most of the merchants and regents living at Herengracht lost much of their wealth and the coach-houses were sold or rented to private persons. In the 19th century they were ideal for a variety of small business using horse carriages.
As the western part of Reguliersdwarsstraat was influenced by the wealth of the Golden Bend, the eastern part of the street was more influenced by the poverty of the back-street quarter called Devil's Corner (Duvelshoek).
In this neighbourhood there were countless small dwellings, a lot of small public houses and the streets were full of beggars, pedlars and all sorts of street performers.
At the beginning of the 20th century a large part of Devil's Corner was pulled down, so the first cinemas of the Netherlands could be build there: in 1917 the Bioscope Theater of Franz Anton Nöggerath and in 1921 the famous Tuschinski Theater, which is still one of the most beautiful Dutch cinemas.
Old building, which was part of the
Bioscope Theater of F.A Nöggerath (1919)
(photo: Stadsarchief Amsterdam)
At the same time the then narrow Vijzelstraat was widened and the huge Carlton Hotel was build alongside it. This cut Regu- liersdwarsstraat physically and visually in two parts.
The hotel was so big, that it had to be build right above the entrance to the western Reguliersdwarsstraat.
During World War II German Nazi-officers were housed in the Carlton Hotel. In april 1943 the Germans shot down a british bomber, which accidently came down right behind the hotel.
Not only the hotel was severly damaged, the fire caused by the bomber destroyed also all the houses in Reguliersdwarsstraat between the Carlton Hotel and Geelvincksteeg.
This was the most devastating fire that struck Amsterdam since 1659, but this time, as by a miracle, only 13 civilians died.
1945 - 1980
After the war, the area destroyed by the fire was for more than a decade used as parking space for cars. It wasn't until the sixties that relatively big new buildings were run up here: Muntstaete for the city savings bank, and De Geelvinck and Munthof for various offices and shops.
Car-park and construction activities in the area
destroyed by the bomber (1963)
(photo: Stadsarchief Amsterdam)
Since the fifties there was a steady growth of bars and restaurants in Reguliersdwarsstraat. Ordinary straight bars have since long been in the street, especially around Devil's Corner. The first restaurant was probably Ognibeni at number 74, which existed from 1936 untill the seventies.
In 1963 the first gay bar was opened in the street: MacDonald Club at number 11. In those days gay bars like this one had curtains in front of the window and a doorman at the door to prevent suspicious people getting in. Nevertheless MacDonald was always a very decent bar, which was often visited by gay guys under 21, who where not allowed into the famous nearby gay disco DOK at Singel number 460.
In Amsterdam there was a rather liberal climate, so already in 1970 the first public gay establishment was openend: Coffee- shop Downtown at number 31. This was and still is a coffee- shop where you can really get coffee (and a lunch) - and so not a coffeeshop where soft drugs are sold.
Six years later the first gay disco opened in Reguliersdwars- straat: De Viking at number 17-19. At first this was a rather hippie styled venue, but later on it got a bad name because of the business boys, the drug dealers and the wild sex parties. De Viking was closed by the police in 1987.
Logo of the Viking
The eighties are known as the golden decade of Reguliers- dwarsstraat. Starting with the opening of the Mexican restaurant Rose's Cantina in 1980, more and more fine and foreign restaurants came into the street, some of them of the highest ranking. Nowadays there are more then 20 different restaurants, most of them well-known and very popular.
A variety of venues in the mid-eighties
(design: Gerritjan Deunk)
A year later, in 1981, Frans Monsma and Guus Silverentand opened the world-famous Café April. This was not only the first public gay bar that was open untill late night, it was also one of the most hip and trendy bars of those days.
Direct from the start April became famous for its big and fancy parties with spectacular decorations. Gay people from all over the world came here on their trip to Amsterdam.
When this bar was extended and became a rotating bar in 1996, it was the biggest gay bar in Europa.
The first interior of Cafe April (1982)
(photo: Missets Horeca)
In 1986 April and Downtown were taken over by bar tycoon Sjoerd Kooistra, after he had bought his first bar (Oblomow at Reguliersdwarsstraat number 40) in Amsterdam one year earlier.
In 1988 Kooistra opened gay disco (April's) Exit and in 1996 he took over the famous disco "36 op de schaal van Richter" at number 36, which he turned into the big gay pub Soho.
Two years later the popular gay dancing Havana was also taken over by Kooistra, but he closed it down in 2002. In that year Angelique Schippers and Rob de Jong opened the most trendy gay bar of that time: ARC at number 44. By the end of 2007 Sjoerd Kooistra bought this bar too, making him the sole owner of all gay venues in the western part of Reguliersdwarsstraat.
Gay venues at the beginning of the 80's:
17: De Viking
37: Café April
10: Favourite Taverne
6: 't Pandje
In the sixties, the number of bars the eastern part of Regu- liersdwarsstraat grew to eight in a row, with some more in Korte Reguliersdwarsstraat. This were ordinary straight bars, but in the seventies and eighties some of them were turned into gay bars.
In 1997 the multicultural Reality Bar at number 129 was opened and by the end of 2006 't Leeuwtje was turned into a gay bar too, bringing the gay community to the centre of this part of Reguliersdwarsstraat too.
The beginning of the 21th century was marked by the break- through of the internet. First this new medium was foremost used for publishing and gathering information: therefore since 1998 almost all restaurants, bars and clubs in Reguliers- dwarsstraat made their own websites:
The first websites of restaurant Bangkok,
Rose's Cantina and April & Exit
A few years later more and more people got a permanent internet connection and this made it possible to use the world wide web also in an interactive way.
Especially for a dispersed minority group like gays, this was a great opportunity to get in contact with eachother.
But that also meant there was less need to go to gay bars for finding friends. Through the internet one could search and find friends a lot more specifically.
Together with price rises caused by the introduction of the euro in 2002 and many gays going out also in straight establishments, the number of visitors of gay venues began to decline.
To make the street more attractive, it was reconstructed in 2006-2007: a new pavement was laid, old and disturbing objects were removed, sidewalks were made broader and, last but not least, the western part of the street can now be closed for cars during the summer season. This to make more space for pedestrians and terraces:
Reguliersdwarsstraat after reconstruction
- History of Amsterdam
- Gay bar
- About The Amsterdam Gay Bar Culture (until 1970)
- Articles in Gay News:
- Reguliersdwarsstraat effervescent as ever (2002)
- Mark Schröder about April, Soho and Exit (2003)
- Empire of catering Tycoon Kooistra Under Fire (2004)
- April Celebrates Twenty-fifth Anniversary! (2006)
- Kooistra loses court-cases, April and Exit need to close (2010)
- In San Francisco: There Goes the Gayborhood! (18+)
- International Homo/Lesbian Informationcenter and Archives :