The Netherlands Cancer Institute opens at Keizersgracht 706, Amsterdam

01_09 Gebouw Keizersgracht kl.jpg 

The comprehensive cancer centre of the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) is given the name Antoni van Leeuwenhoekhuis (AVL). The AVL was opened on 17 January 1915 in the stately building of Keizersgracht 706, Amsterdam.  In the photo the building can be seen on the right.

The building dates from 1672 and was renovated in the Louis XVI style in 1795 as a patrician mansion. From that period, the beautiful ceiling paintings have been preserved and in the time of the AVL, decoration included beautifully ornate mirrors and wall hangings. During the French occupation under Napoleon the building was stripped of its grand entrance, and ever since the entrance is a modest door into the basement.   In the hospital wards, the old fireplaces were kept, giving a particularly homely atmosphere to part of the hospital. This was intended as temporary accommodation until the NKI had realised its own new premises.  The necessary changes were not carried out too drastically, even though the AVL stayed at this address until 1929. 

The building at Keizersgracht 706 was purchased on 5 May 1914 for ƒ56,512.  The changes and building work needed to transform it to a hospital and laboratory cost ƒ7,496 during the first 2 years. Furnishing and equipping the clinic cost ƒ22,108 while fitting out the operating theatre, X-ray equipment and radium cost together ƒ30,512. The library cost ƒ616 and the laboratory ƒ3.035 [13]. The largest portion of these costs was the purchase of 100 mg of radium. 

An impression of Keizersgracht 706.

The current inhabitants/owners of the building have allowed the Historad working group to visit the house and the former hospital rooms have been identified and, where possible, photographed.  A newspaper report from 1915 was used as a guide.  An impression:

Keizersgracht 706 Entree 

Entrance basement, Keizersgracht 706 in 2012 (photo H. van der Gugten)

From the report in the daily newspaper NRC (Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant) of 29 January 1915:

"At the invitation of the Board, we have recently visited the institute, with a number of colleagues, led by the Director of the Laboratory, Professor W.M. de Vries and Drs. J.H. Kuijjer and G.F. Gaarenstroom, head of the clinic and head of the radiation treatment department respectively…… Even at the entrance in the basement every inch of space has to be utilized. Left of the entrance, in the wide marble hall, one finds the doctor's consulting room and a small room where patients are examined; the library, safely kept in a former bank safe; the radiation treatment room where patients are treated with radium and X-rays and the operating theatre.  The latter is built out into the garden and is well lit by use of two glass lanterns in the roof (Note H. van der Gugten: daylight through windows in the flat roof). On the other side of the passage one finds: the doorkeeper's booth, stores and kitchen. At the end of the hall there is also a waiting room for the patients."

Plan of the basement at Keizersgracht 706 (measurements of 1941 with indication of the use of the rooms by the AVL in the period 1915 - 1929). 

Keizersgracht 706 sousterrain.JPG


Radiation treatment room in 1915 (Photo Historical Archive, AVL) 

1915 bestralingsruimte keizersgracht web.jpg 


"By way of an easy, old-fashioned stair, the first floor is reached; without doubt the most impressive of the house, and in apparent contrast, furnished for the 3rd class patients who pay the least.  The reason is that the large rooms are most suited for nursing a larger number of patients together.  On the left on the first floor is the men's ward, on the right the women's ward and a conversation room.  The patients truly lie here as princes and princesses in the beautiful rooms with painted ceilings, carved fireplaces and decorative panelling.  On the second floor, in a number of rooms overlooking the pretty garden,  1st and 2nd class patients are accommodated." 

Plafond mannenzaal keizersgracht 706

Ceiling, men's ward, Keizersgracht 706

Ceiling centre piece: Minerva (1768), A young man is led by Minerva (goddess of wisdom) to Hercules (personification of goodness), after which vanity and lechery are banished. 

voormalige Mannenzaal 1ste verdieping Keizersgracht 706


Fireplace in former men's ward (Photo: H. van der Gugten)

Klasse kamer Keizersgracht 706


Laboratorium Keizersgracht 706











Private nursing ward, 2nd floor, Keizersgracht 706 (Photo: Audiovisual Services, AVL)






Laboratory, Keizersgracht 706 (Photo: Audiovisual Services, AVL)


"The laboratory is in an extension built in the garden. It consists of two floors, each with 6 bench places. Both physicians, who will have the role of morphologist and serologist-bacteriologist, are currently in military service. Because of this, the laboratory work is carried out on a smaller scale.  Dr. W.F. Wassink carries out morphological work on a temporary basis, while Professor P. Ruitenga carries out certain research in his own laboratory."


Bronnen & Publicaties

  • [13] Second annual report of the NKI, 1915, p4. ,