Hofje van Bakenes (translation: Van Bakenes Almshouses) or officially known as De Bakenesserkamer, is the oldest existing almshouse in the Netherlands established in 1395, founded by Dirck van Bakenes.
According to ‘Hofjes of Haarlem’ website, there were only women who used to live here at Hofje van Bakenes. In the 18th century, new residents paid 100 guilders upon arrival. They were allowed to live freely, received six pennies each week, free peat, firewood and an extra gift at Christmas and Easter. They also received medical assistance, medicines and when they died, a funeral. For poor single women, this living arrangement was a godsend! Life was very simple, but together, they were a community.
If you are interested to visit, there are two entrance gates to get to Hofje van Bakenes. First one is located along Bakenessergracht, next to house number 64 and the other is on Wijde Appelaarsteeg, just around the corner through Nauwe Appelaarsteeg street. Look out for a green door at either entrances with decorated keystone above it!Your visit start amusingly at the gate with a special riddle above the heavy wooden doors. The keystone rhymed:
Ingang vant Gesticht
van Dirk van Bakenes
voor Vrouwen acht en
twee mael ses
The inscription means:
“Entrance of the institution. Dirck van Bakenes for women eight and twice six”
“Eight and twice six” refers to two meanings/equations:
8+(2×6) = 20 which was the number of people who lived here.
(8+2)x6 = 60 which was the minimum age for women eligible to be living here.
Once you enter, follow the long and narrow path to reach the inner courtyard. The current state of houses on Hofje van Bakenes dates back to the 17th century. Feel free to walk around the garden and check out the water pump under the beautiful canopy. If you walk past a green mailbox, make a donation. Whatever you do, please respect the privacy of residents during your visit. No peeking through windows into their homes!Hofje van Bakenes is open for visitors Monday to Saturday from 10am – 5pm. Strictly no visitors on Sundays and public holidays.
NOTE: Incidentally, the oldest almshouse Hofje van Bakenes lies adjacent to the newest almshouse in Haarlem, the Johannes Enchedé Hof, completed in 2007. It is freely accessible from Hofje van Bakenes. Both almshouses are interconnected!