From the second half of the 14th century, Amsterdam was to develop into an important trading city. The transit of grain in particular formed the basis for the city's great prosperity. Post-1585, the population had grown to such an extent that the decision was taken to expand Amsterdam. To the west of the old centre, a multi-phased process led to the construction of the canal district, which was a great work of engineering for those days.
From 1663 on, the canal district came into being between the Leidsegracht and the Amstel river. Where possible, the land was divided into regularly shaped plots. A system was introduced by which the scale of the plots directly distinguished between the inexpensive and expensive areas, so that only the wealthy traders and regents could afford the more expensive plots. The northern section of the new canal district (the Herengracht and Keizersgracht) was intended as a residential area for the most affluent parties.