Hippolytusbuurt 3, Leeuwenhoek's Home and Laboratory

Het Gulden Hoofd

Leeuwenhoek lived in the same house for his whole adult life. It was also his laboratory. He made his lenses and microscopes there and did almost all of his observing and letter-writing there, as well as entertaining visitors. Named the Gulden Hoofd (golden head), the house had been built of brick after the fire of 1536 destroyed most of Delft's wooden houses.

Unfortunately, the house no longer exists. There are no photographs or paintings of its front or interior. There is one survey sketch, stylized for the Kaart-Figuratief 1678 (left sidebar; click to enlarge).

The building itself was in the early 1800's combined with the house next door on the corner. However, the Gulden Hoofd's foundations are still there, and parts of the outside brick wall. On the 1832 Kadaster map on the right, the blue is the water of the Nieuwe Delft gracht, in that section called the Hippolytusbuurt, where it flows under the Warmoesbrug (C1209), from top to bottom on the map. At the foot of the Warmoesbrug is a yellow area (C153) on the corner of the Nieuwstraat (C1205) and the Hippolytusbuurt.

In the early 1800's, a shopkeeper who had grown up in the Suikerhuis next door bought both C153 closer to the Nieuwstraat and the house and property next door, what was then C154, named the Gulden Hoofd. It was a little narrower than the Suikerhuis, as shown on the 1922 cross-section through the rear of the property (right sidebar; click to enlarge). The Gulden Hoofd was in the middle between the wider Suikerhuis and Rode Leeuw. But the Gulden Hoofd was much deeper and included Leeuwenhoek's open courtyard, which is the lighter yellow rectangle.

By the time of the 1832 Kadaster map, the Gulden Hoofd had ceased to exist as a house. Subsequent renovations and remodelings changed both the exterior and interior beyond anything that Leeuwenhoek would recognize. On the right sidebar, the Doppio 2017 interior (click to enlarge) shows the space that was Leeuwenhoek's linen shop and where he later demonstrated his observations for visitors.

He lived there for almost twenty years, since 1655, before he ventured into public life with his letters to the Royal Society. The archive of notary Andries Bogaert documents that the widow of Frans van Helden contracted to sell the land and house to Leeuwenhoek on February 16 of that year.

Sixty-eight years later, Leeuwenhoek died. His unmarried daughter Maria continued to live in the Gulden Hoofd until her death in 1745. It was the only home she had known. In April 1745, two notaries made an inventory of Maria's possessions. That room by room inventory reveals the number and relative position of the rooms, though not their dimensions. It is the basis for the reconstruction at the top of this page and the floor plans elsewhere in this section. Later in 1745, the Gulden Hoofd was bought by Maria's cousin Dirk Haaxman as part of his inheritance.

In the 19th century, the combined building housed a series of stores selling clothing and fabrics. In the early 20th century, the building was totally remodeled, inside and out, for the V&D (Vroom and Dreesman) department store. They renamed it De Zon and occupied it for most of the century. Currently, it is Hippolytusbuurt 1, occupied by a Doppio Espresso cafe. Two properties to the north, a plaque commememorates Leeuwenhoek (left; click to enlarge).

It reads, Here stood the house "Het Gouden Hoofd" where 91-year-old Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the discoverer of microbes, died on 26 August 1723.

In fact, Leeuwenhoek was still 90 when he died and the Gulden Hoofd has disappeared so completely that the plaque is on the wrong house.