The Elandsgracht is situated between the Prinsengracht and the Singelgracht in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam. This area, commonly known as one of the prettiest and village-like neighborhoods of the Dutch capital city, was built in 1613. It was specifically designed to house laborers and immigrants. In this period of time, demand for craftsmanship, tailors, carpenters and other suppliers was high and so the first inhabitants of the Jordaan prospered.
The Elandsgracht got its name from the numerous tanners that lived and worked in the Jordaan at the time and prepared, processed and sold hides by the hundreds. As more and more people move into this area of town, home owners start subletting their attics, basements and spare rooms to entire families. As always, inventive solutions against housing shortage were soon to be found all over the Jordaan, such as lifting a roof to fit in an entire extra floor inside a home. As houses grew taller, the streets appeared to become narrower. Homes were split into a front-of-house and a back-of-house. Long narrow hallways were created to connect the two and closets were turned into cupboard beds. During this time of rapid growth, construction was often rushed and people cut corners to save money. As a result, foundations underneath newly built housing were often shoddy and over time, many of these homes would start to ‘sink’ into the ground – sometimes several feet.
As the 19th century progressed, Amsterdam was no longer considered the epicenter of trade and shipping in The Netherlands. The Jordaan neighborhood was struck by increasing poverty as a result. This led to more and more abandoned houses, that inevitably fell prey to neglect. The Elandsgracht was eventually filled up in 1891 due to the increasing stench emanating from the waterway. Around the same time, the Palmgracht, Goudsbloemgracht, Lindengracht, Anjeliersgracht and the Rozengracht all met a similar fate. The deterioration of the neighborhood continued and would not stop for a good half century, until after the Second World War.