The Plancius neighborhood grew out of the original Western Islands buildings along the Nieuwe Teertuinen and the two former bastions of the old city defenses. At the north side a bridge connects the Planciusstraat to the Zoutkeetsplein in the Zeeheldenbuurt (Sea Heroes neighborhood). The Houtmankade lies on the Westerkanaal, a wide straight shipping channel, dug between 1869 and 1875. At the south side the area is confined by the railway tracks to Haarlem and Zaandam.
The white building at Schiemanstraat 2 in Neo-Renaissance style is a former public school for the poor from 1863, originally with 360 (!) pupils in one room. During the 1930s Great Depression the unemployed had to get a stamp here twice daily to get financial support, which often led to long lines and small riots. The building is now a daycare center.
Streets in the Plancius neighborhood
- Eerste Breeuwersstraat – First Caulkers Street. Caulkers made wooden ships watertight by driving fibrous materials (like hemp) into the seams between boards, then tarring them.
- Tweede Breeuwersstraat – Second Caulkers Street.
- Houtmankade – Houtman Quay. Cornelis de Houtman (1565-1599) was a Dutch merchant and explorer, who traveled with the first Dutch expedition to the East Indies. On his second voyage in 1598 he was killed on board his ship by the local inhabitants.
- Houtmanstraat – Houtman Street.
- Korte Zoutkeetgracht – Short Salt Shack Canal. Named after the salt works and salt shacks which stood along the Zoutkeetsgracht. This part was dug in 1877.
- Nieuwe Teertuinen – New Tar Gardens. Named after the tar cookers which were located here at the start of the 17th century. Although grouped with the Plancius neighborhood, it is historically a part of the Western Islands, created during the Third Expansion (Derde Uitleg) from 1612 on.
- Planciusstraat – Plancius Street. Petrus Plancius (1552-1622, real name Pieter Platevoet) was a Flemish astronomer, cartographer, geographer, preacher and administrator of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company). The Planciusstraat actually starts at Haarlemmerplein and continues after the railway viaduct.
- Schiemanstraat – Boatswain’s Mate Street. A boatswain’s mate is a petty officer who oversees the mast rigging, assistant of the boatswain. This street was created in 1921 when the railroad tracks to Haarlem were doubled.
- Sloterdijkstraat – Sloterdijk Street. Named after the village which could be seen from here before 1900.
- Smallepadsgracht – Narrow Path Canal. Named after the original path along the 17th century bastions, now Planciusstraat.
- Zoutkeetsbrug – Salt Shack Bridge.
History of the Smallepad Area
The Smallepad (Narrow Path, the current Planciusstraat) was a street along the city wall in the 17th century, running from Haarlemmerplein along the former bastions Westerbeer and De Bogt, both with windmills on top. There were only buildings on one side of the Smallepad, on the outer side were a few long ropewalks, burned down in 1680 en then rebuilt.
Bastion Westerbeer with flour mill De Beer was located on the corner of the Houtmankade and the Eerste Breeuwersstraat. This bastion was nicknamed “Tamer of Waters”, protecting Amsterdam’s outer grasslands against the raging water of the IJ at high tide. The flour mill burned down in 1861 and in 1874 the bastion became redundant because of a new lock in the Westerdoksdijk.
Bastion De Bogt (The Bend) with flour mill De Vervanger (The Replacement) was located at the southern tip of the current Zoutkeetsplein (Salt Shack Square). The bastion was called The Bend because the city wall bent south from here. Flour mill De Vervanger was demolished in 1878.
The Former Westerplantsoen
In 1845 there was a beautiful park here, called Westerplantsoen, between the bastions and up to the Haarlemmerpoort (Haarlem Gate). It had an impressive gate, a summer theater and a tavern called Welgelegen (Well Situated), more or less where the Zoutkeetsplein is now. Amsterdam’s first housing corporation, the Vereeniging ten behoeve der Arbeidersklasse (VAK, Corporation on behalf of the Working Classes), built their first big block of healthier housing for workers here in 1858.
When the blocks were built the street was still called Smallepad, and the location was chosen because of the green park environment and fresh air. The blocks are now a national monument, but the former park was completely destroyed — together with the remnants of the bastions — for the construction of the Westerkanaal (current Houtmankade) in 1875 and the railway bridge in 1878, both ordained by the central government led by Thorbecke (1798-1872).
A former elementary school building from 1924 (now homes and businesses), at the corner of Korte Zoutkeetsgracht and Planciusstraat, is named Smalle Pad, a reminder of the old street name. It was designed by C. Kruyswijk in Amsterdam School style and is a municipal monument.
The Nieuwe Teertuinen (New Tar Gardens) is a quay north of the Haarlemmerplein (Haarlem Square), running parallel to the Planciusstraat. Although officially not on Prinseneiland but on the edge of it, it is definitely a part of the island’s history. From here the Sloterdijkerbrug (Sloterdijk bridge) leads to Prinseneiland, across the Prinseneilandsgracht. At the northern end of the Nieuwe Teertuinen the street turns west (as Tweede Breeuwersstraat) to connect to Planciusstraat.
As the name suggest, at Nieuwe Teertuinen (previously named Sloterdijksgracht) tar cookers and vendors had their business since 1643. These were the new tar gardens, the old ones had been near the Kamperhoofd, a 16th century bastion near the Schreierstoren in the center of town. This new quay was just outside of the city wall, because the city wanted the tar cookeries outside of the town, as they were always a fire hazard. Tar was also packed and sold on the other side of the canal, on Prinseneiland, where a tar cooker operated until 1920.
Next to tar cookers a number of warehouses was constructed here, some of which were replaced by homes after 1900. The 18th century warehouses at numbers 11A, 12A, 13A and 14A (later made into apartments) and the house the Roo Vos (the Red Fox) at number 24 are national monuments. The warehouses belonged to the Gulden Veem (the Golden Veem, a warehouse company) and were mostly used for tobacco storage until the 1950s.
The Plancius school from 1917 was paid for by the HIJSM (Holland Iron Railway Company) as compensation for the destruction of the former school at Schiemanstraat. During the 1970s the school closed — it now houses a daycare center and various workshops. The building is a municipal monument.
De Roo Vos
House De Roo Vos (Red Fox) was built in 1765 and is a national monument — in the last century it was subsequently a tar storage, a soap factory, a printer’s and a sailmaker’s. After a fire in 1936 the building was restored and it was last renovated in 1998. At this adress at Nieuwe Teertuinen 24 the first printed edition of illegal resistance newspaper Het Parool (the Watchword) was created on 11 August 1941, during the Second World War.
The ramp along the Smallepadsgracht was called Planciusstraat after 1875. This street, situated between the Western Islands and the Westerkanaal — starts at the Haarlemmerplein and continues after the train viaduct up to the Zoutkeetsgracht. The Plancius-block from 1856-1858 (by the VAK, Housing Corporation for the Working Classes) at Planciusstraat 8-18, Houtmanstraat 1-93, measures 220 x 12 m (218 x 13 yd) and holds 120 apartments.
It was designed by architect P.J. Hamer (1812-1887), who had been appointed as overseer for the buildings of the Hervormde Gemeente (Dutch Reformed Congregation). The apartments were connected to the just finished fresh drinking water pipes from the Waterleidingduinen (Water Dunes near Zandvoort beach), a novelty back then. The block was renovated in 2007 and is a national monument.
The VAK chose this area in the far northwest corner of town to build better housing for the workers, partly because the space near the Singel was soon gobbled up for the well-to-do, partly because of the green environment provided by the Westerplantsoen city park along the former bastions. There was an urgent need for worker’s housing in that area because of the many industries there and on the Western Islands, as well as for the staff of the Willemspoort train station (in use until 1878).
Unfortunately the rents were quite high for most workers and the many dirty industries in the district provided an unbearable stench, despite the nearby park — these were either closed by the city or burned down, so after 1862 the situation got better. To the west of the block the Westerplantsoen (Western Garden) had been created in the style of an English country garden, but it was demolished again in 1875 when the Westerkanaal (Western Channel) was dug.
Wijkgebouw Salem (district building Salem) of the Nederlands Hervormde Gemeente (Dutch Reformed Protestants) at Planciusstraat 69-71 opened in 1910. It was used for meetings and religious education, there was a neighborhood nurse and the top floors had three apartments. Later it held a furniture shop and a bed store.
At the north side of the Nieuwe Teertuinen, west of Realeneiland, you find the Smallepadsgracht (Narrow Path Canal) — without bridges or quays — connecting the Zoutkeetsgracht (Salt Shed Canal) with Prinseneilandsgracht (Princes Island Canal). Constructed in the 17th century it was originally more of a ramp with wharfs, workshops, factories and a big warehouse.
In 1680 three ropewalks on this ramp burned down. One of the shipyards belonged to well-known ship’s carpenter Haring Booy, owner of the building The Three Crowned Herring on Realeneiland.
After the Westerkanaal shipping lane had been dug, the Zoutkeetsgracht was extended in 1877 to connect it to the new channel. This disconnected the Planciusstraat from the Zeeheldenbuurt (Sea Heroes neighborhood) to the north, which was soon to be constructed. A bridge was created in 1878 to connect the two districts — it was replaced in 1912 and again in 1966.
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