Proveniershuis in Haarlem
The Proveniershuis is a hofje in Haarlem, Netherlands.
The hofje was founded in 1707 by the city council to house elderly men of low means, called proveniers. The main building is much older than that. The entire site was once a nunnery, called the St. Michielsklooster, from the 14th century up to the Protestant Reformation, when all church lands reverted to the city council. The Haarlem archives still have a first-hand account of one of the original nuns, Elisabeth Verhagen, who was moved to a house on the Begijnhof after the reformation. She complained of the plundering of her old cloister and the fact that all the sisters were split up and sent to live elsewhere. They had to make room for the St. Joris Doelen, or St. George Militia.
Golden Age target practise
In 1577, the city council refurbished the main buildings to house the schutterij called the "Oude schuts", and was called the St. Jorisdoelen, or St. George militia target field. The garden was converted to include two shooting lanes; one for bow and arrow, and one for the blunderbuss. The fancy St. Joris militiamen, who met more often together for shooting practise than for fighting or policing the streets, were painted by Frans Hals several times.
From fancy inn to old age home
The complex was the domain of militiamen until well into the 17th century, but in 1688 Romeyn de Hooghe made an etching of the building, calling it the Heren Logement, or gentlemen's hotel. In 1682 it had been restored by the city architect Lieven de Key for this purpose, with rooms being made for travelers in the top floors, and a main hall below. It was meant to be a chic refuge for travelers by coach, but this never quite succeeded, because the coaches never stopped there. In 1707 it became the proveniershuis, serving older men who could pay room and board. Older men with no money at all were kept in the men's poor house known as the Oudemannenhuis, a similar courtyard complex just a few blocks away and currently housing the Frans Hals Museum.
In 1810 during the French occupation the French used the Oudemannenhuis as a garrison and the elderly men were merged with the proveniers in the Proveniershuis. In 1866 the hofje van Alkemade was merged into the Proveniershuis and it became Proveniershof. Because the main complex was originally meant for men who could pay, the small rooms are larger than many other Haarlem hofjes.
The most famous men who stayed in the Proveniershuis in the 18th century were Daniel Cajanus, the "Wonderful giant" Finn who was said to be eight feet high, and Pieter Langendijk, the Dutch historian. Daniel Cajanus was buried in the Sint-Bavokerk when he died in 1749 and a commemorative painting of him now hangs in the lower back cloisters of the city hall. From Pieter Langendijk's stories, we know a bit about the daily life of the average provenier.
Today the homes around the courtyard are rentals; and the main building houses a shop and a lunch room catering to the busy shoppers in the Grote Houtstraat.
Address: Grote Houtstraat 140
- Het Proveniershuis te Haarlem, by G. H. Kurtz, Vereniging "Haerlem", Haarlem 1979