If you ever visit the Netherlands, perhaps you’ll stay at the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam or Hotel New York in Rotterdam. These two hotels – still operational – played witness to decades of migration through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Both hotels were owned by shipping lines – the Lloyd hotel was owned by Royal Holland Line (Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd) and Hotel New York by the Holland-Amerika Line (Nederlansch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij).
Both hotels were used as temporary accommodation for those migrating from Europe. Often, package deals were available which would combine a train ticket, hotel accommodation and passage over the oceans.
Hotel New York provided respite for people migrating to North America. Initially, in the late 19th century, people staying there were migrating from the Netherlands and Germany, but later those moving from Eastern Europe and Russia stayed there too.
Between 1921 and 1935, the Lloyd Hotel housed people migrating to South America. The hotel could cater for up to 900 people, who stayed there on their journeys from Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Balkans. Many were leaving behind the poverty of their homelands to go to South America, where labour was needed for agriculture.
Voyages from Amsterdam were to Buenos Aires with calls at Boulogne, Plymouth, Coruna, Lisbon, Las Palmas, Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Montevideo.
In a nearby quarantine building, people had a medical checkup and a shower before their long journey. These checkups were important as, should someone be refused at the destination port, the shipping line would have to pay for their passage back to Europe – something they were keen to avoid.
At the Europeana Migration collection days in Zagreb and Sibiu, we heard stories of people who emigrated from Eastern Europe to the Americas at the time these Dutch hotels were hosting migrants. Perhaps the travellers in our stories even stayed at one of them. We don’t know. But what we do know is that their stories illustrate the kinds of journeys, highs, lows and emotions that the people who passed through these hotels experienced too. Next time you’re in a hotel, think about its history and the hundreds of people who lay their head on the pillow before you. Not every hotel is for holidays.