Essential Architecture-  Amsterdam


Raised Cornices (±1700-±1775)

Keizersgracht 244-246
Herengracht 374
Herengracht 336

Single houses require a gable top to crown the facade, an indispensable element to conceal the ridge of the roof. The central section of the raised cornice curves upwards in order to achieve this end or to create additional space for a garret hatch.

Herengracht 252 and 250 (±1730 and 1743 resp.)
a straight and raised cornice (both have attics)

Throughout the 18th century this type remained popular. There is an almost endless variety from early 18th century Louis XIV to Louis XV in the third quarter of the century. The most important types are:

  • small semi-circular elevation
  • trapezoid elevation
  • attic or attic-shaped decoration on top of the semi-circular elevation
  • open balustrade with closed and raised middle section on top of the semi-circular elevation
  • elevation resembling a gable top
  • cambered cornice

Raised cornices are almost entirely restricted to single houses. Double houses usually have straight cornices with or without attics or balustrades. Nieuwe Herengracht 143 (circa 1750 is a rare example of a double house with a raised cornice.

Raised Cornices with a small Semi-Circular Central Elevations

A relatively simple type is the small semi-circular elevation above the middle bay. Often this is the obvious place for the hoist beam and/or garret hatch. Examples: Singel 386 (1st quarter 18th century); Prinsengracht 721 (circa 1750). In some cases the semi-circular elevations were richly decorated, with the ornaments surrounding the hoist beam and/or hatch. Examples: Nieuwe Herengracht 99 and Oudezijds Voorburgwal 63 with oval elevations and Rokin 64 with trefoil elevation (all examples date back to the 2nd quarter of the 18th century).

Raised Cornices with Trapezoid Central Elevations

Herengracht 567 (1718)

In some cases the raised middle section is not semi-circular but trapezoid. Examples: Herengracht 567 (1718); Singel 322 (1st quarter 18th century); Keizersgracht 282 (circa 1730); Binnenkant 28 (4th quarter 18th century).

Raised Cornices with Attics or Attic-Shaped Decorations on top of the Semi-Circular Elevations

Prinsengracht 126 (±1755)

This type occurs more often. Examples: Singel 390 (±1700), Herengracht 166 (±1725), Prins Hendrikkade 133 (1727), Singel 186 (±1730), Keizersgracht 263 (±1735), Keizersgracht 137-139 (1738), Herengracht 487 (±1740), Singel 134 (±1740), Singel 60 (±1745), Singel 56 (±1750), Oudezijds Voorburgwal 45 (±1750), Prinsengracht 126 (±1755), Keizersgracht 144 (±1760), Singel 66-68 (±1760). Oude Doelenstraat 16 (2nd quarter 18th century) is an extreme case with the attic decoration rising to such a height that it starts to resemble a top gable proper.

A word of warning: some of the attics crowning raised cornices were removed so that these houses are now categorised with the simple cornices without attics. Herengracht 374 (±1725) is a case in point. What we are concerned with here is a mutilated gable. We can only hope that at some time in the future the attic will be restored.

Raised Cornices with Open Balustrades and Closed Middle Elevations

Keizersgracht 244-246
Keizersgracht 225

The attic-like elevation above the small semi-circular elevation is sometimes given the shape of an open balustrade with a closed middle section. Examples: Keizersgracht 244-246 (±1730), Prinsengracht 472 (±1730), Herengracht 274 (1739), Singel 23-25 (±1740), Herengracht 250 (1743), Keizersgracht 225 (1746), Keizersgracht 284 (±1765). In only very few cases the attic is closed and the middle elevation is lacking. Examples: Herengracht 12 (1st quarter 18th century), Keizersgracht 119 (±1735), Keizersgracht 111 (±1740), Keizersgracht 217-219 (±1740).

The remark made above also applies here: the attics were sometimes removed, relegating the top gables of this type to the realm of the simpler cornices.

Raised Cornices Resembling Top Gables

Keizersgracht 196
Singel 288

Sometimes the cornice was raised almost in its entirety. Consequently the cornice begins to resemble a top gable proper. Examples: Herengracht 434 (1717), Singel 320 (1st quarter 18th century), Kalverstraat 179 (±1720), Prinsengracht 299 (±1720), Keizersgracht 158 (1721), Keizersgracht 196 (1724), Nieuwmarkt 25 (1724), Damrak 85 (1725), Singel 45 (1725), Reguliersgracht 34 (1725), Oude Doelenstraat 14 (1735), Herengracht 352 (±1735), Singel 40 (±1735), Kalverstraat 10 (±1740), Herengracht 336 (±1745), Keizersgracht 192 (±1745), Prins Hendrikkade 134 (2nd quarter 18th century), Herengracht 360 (±1750), Warmoesstraat 104 (±1750), Singel 288 (1758), Kloveniersburgwal 65 (±1750/60), Keizersgracht 194 (±1760), Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 103 (3rd quarter 18th century).

Cambered Cornices (resembling bell-shaped gables)

Finally, a further type is distinguished which is characterised by a cambered cornice. The frieze is lacking (carried out in brick masonry). Sometimes these cornices come to resemble bell-shaped gables. Historians have come up with a whole range of different names for this type, but it is probably best to speak of a cornice resembling a bell-shaped gable. Examples: Keizersgracht 663 (1st quarter 18th century), Prinsengracht 305 (±1725), Geldersekade 45 (2nd quarter 18th century), Amstel 101 (2nd quarter 18th century?), Herengracht 445 (±1750), Prinsengracht 1099 (±1750), Keizersgracht 411 (±1770). The concave-convex shaped gables sometimes even look like double ogee gables which became fashionable during the 19th century. Example: Haarlemmerstraat 179.


Special thanks to the Amsterdam Bureau of Monuments and Archeology website,