History of Steenhof Suites
Our small-scale hotel in Leiden’s inner city is situated in two neighbouring monumental canal houses along the Steenschuur. This former moat is an extension of the Rapenburg. Both canals were dug in the 13th century. As the city of Leyden continued to grow, the canals eventually wound up within the city walls and lost their function as a moat. Monumental buildings were constructed along the canals, offering a home to the wealthy bourgeoisie. This was also the case with the buildings where Steenhof Suites is located. Steenschuur number 11 and number 13 are iconic buildings with a tale to tell, with a rich history. These listed buildings were converted into a small-scale boutique hotel in 2015 and 2018/2019, respectively. A construction company specializing in monumental renovation projects carried out the conversion of Steenhof Suites with respect for the architectural elements and the wishes of contemporary hotel guests, and with love for the trade.
Steenschuur number 11, with its characteristic crow-stepped gable and beautiful red shutters, was given the name ‘t Bruggehoofd (literally: bridgehead) in the course of the 20th century. It’s a reference to its unique location, at the end of the Groenebrug bridge that spans the canal. The building’s history goes back to the late Middle Ages. According to building history research, the core of the monument’s front house dates back to 1460-1466. At the time, this section was made of wood. Examination of the wood in the roof of the rear house has revealed that this part was built between 1488 and 1500.
As far as we know, the building functioned as a home almost continuously over the centuries. In the course of time, the front house and back house were rebuilt and expanded several times. Historical elements in the interior are the oak staircases, the panelling, the beamed ceilings, the wooden floors and the various mantelpieces, such as the one in the Royal Suite that’s more than 500 years old. Very unique is the fact that the building also features a late Gothic niche with a wash basin in one of its walls, a so-called piscina. These types of wash basins are mainly found in churches and used for the purification ritual prior to mass. The piscina points to private devotion: exercising faith within the home. The medieval cellar underneath the building was only rediscovered in the 21st century and is currently used as a wine cellar. The entrance to this wine cellar can be found in the gentleman’s room Charly’s Lounge.
Steenschuur number 13
The construction history of this building consists of no less than seven different construction phases, with the first building activities on the plot taking place as early as around 1500. Various historical elements from different centuries have been preserved and are of great monumental value to the building. First there’s the beautiful crow-stepped gable of the front house that dates back to the early 17th century. It was renovated in later times, but its core is approximately 400 years old. This façade with its red brick and sandstone elements has all the characteristics of the Dutch Renaissance style.
History is also abundantly present in the interior, which represents various construction periods. The stucco ceilings, panelling and several mantelpieces get a lot of praise. A nice detail is the toilet in the courtyard, dating from the beginning of the 20th century. It has a marble floor, characteristic white tiles on the wall and a beautiful toilet bowl of blue-flowered earthenware. Also not to be overlooked are a number of 17th-century oak doors, all of which hang in a different spot than when they were originally made. In the Van der Werf Suite, the entrance to the bathroom has been lowered to be able to fit one of these historic doors. Here we bow to the past…
Leiden gunpowder disaster
On a page about the history of our hotel, the Leiden gunpowder disaster of 1807 should definitely get a mention too. At the time of the French occupation, when King Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was in charge here, a ship loaded with nearly 18,000 kilos of gunpowder sailed from Haarlem to Delft. For reasons unknown, the cargo exploded right in the middle of the Steenschuur canal. It was a huge disaster that made many victims (151 dead and more than 2,000 injured). More than 200 homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable, whereas windows and roofs were damaged all across Leiden and its immediate surroundings. Prints from those days show enormous devastation. As if by a miracle, the Steenhof Suites buildings (Steenschuur number 11 and 13) escaped virtually undamaged. In all likelihood, the Lodewijkskerk (St. Louis Church) offered protection to some of the buildings along the Steenschuur canal.
Every year on the 3rd of October, exuberant celebrations take place in Leiden to commemorate the city’s liberation from Spanish rule in 1574, at the time of the Eighty Years’ War. Foods traditionally associated with this event are stew, herring and white bread. Leidens Ontzet, also known as the 3 October Festival, is one of the major folklore festivals in the Netherlands. Celebrating and commemorating this historical event has been passed on from generation to generation and was added to the Intangible Heritage list of the Netherlands in June 2019. An extensive historical explanation can be found on the website of the 3 october Vereeniging. The Van der Werfpark, opposite the hotel, and one of the Steenhof Suites have been named after Pieter Adriaanszoon van der Werff, the heroic mayor at the time of the Siege of Leiden. In the middle of the park you’ll find a statue of Van der Werff.
On the map
We’re particularly proud of our exclusive small-scale hotel with its special ambiance and history. Steenhof Suites has therefore created a special Wikipedia page. It tells you, among other things, about the complete history of ‘t Bruggehoofd. Isn’t it unique that we can point out our buildings on old maps of Leiden’s historic centre, for instance from the 17th century? Even back then we’d already put ourselves on the map…