Plancius neighborhood, Amsterdaam

Plancius neighborhood

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.

Planciusstraat, Amsterdam, looking north towards the corner of the Schiemanstraat

Planciusstraat looking north towards the corner of the Schieman­straat (July 2022).

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.
Eerste Breeuwersstraat between Planciusstraat and Houtmankade

Eerste Breeuwers­straat between Plancius­straat and Hout­man­kade (July 2022).

  • 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.
Schiemanstraat, looking south toward the railway bridge across the Westerkanaal

Schiemanstraat, looking south toward the railway bridge across the Wester­kanaal (July 2022).

  • 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.
Bridge keeper houses from 1925 at Schiemanstraat, Amsterdam

Schiemanstraat 1-3, two houses from 1925 which were meant for the bridge keepers of the HIJSM (Holland Iron Railroad Company, predecessor of the Neder­landse Spoor­wegen), operating the rail­road bridge across the Wester­kanaal (July 2022).

  • 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.
Former Smallepad (current Planciusstraat), Amsterdam, detail of a map from 1737

Marked in red the former Smallepad (current Plancius­straat), detail of a map from 1737 by Gerrit de Broen (Rijks­museum).

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.

Smallepad, Amsterdam, in 1816, drawing by Gerrit Lamberts

Smallepad in 1816, looking north from Haar­lem­mer­poort, drawing by Gerrit Lamberts (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

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.

Drawing by P.G. Westenberg from 1815, bastion De Bogt and bastion Westerbeer, Amsterdam

Bastion De Bogt with windmill De Vervanger, seen from the north. On the left the buildings along the Smallepad. In the back­ground bastion Westerbeer with windmill De Beer. Drawing by P.G. Westen­berg from 1815 (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

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.

Welgelegen tavern, Amsterdam, in 1863, then the Westerplantsoen park

Main entrance of the Wel­gelegen tavern in 1863, in what was then the Wester­plantsoen park (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

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).

Houtmankade with Westerkanaal, Amsterdam, looking north towards the IJ

Houtmankade with Wester­kanaal, looking north towards the IJ, Pontsteiger building in the distance (July 2022).

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.

Nieuwe Teertuinen

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.

Nieuwe Teer­tuinen, Amsterdam, drawing by Gerrit Lamberts from 1816

Nieuwe Teer­tuinen in 1816, seen in the direction of the Haar­lemmer Hout­tuinen. On the left is the Sloter­dijker­brug across the Prinsen­eilands­gracht. Six winches in the fore­ground. Drawing by Gerrit Lamberts (Stads­archief Amsterdam).

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.

Former warehouses on Nieuwe Teertuinen, Amsterdam

Former warehouses on Nieuwe Teer­tuinen (July 2022).

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.

Plancius school from 1917 at Nieuwe Teertuinen 17, Amsterdam

Plancius school from 1917 at Nieuwe Teer­tuinen 17 (July 2022).

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.

De Roo Vos from 1765 at Nieuwe Teertuinen 24, Amsterdam

De Roo Vos (the Red Fox) from 1765 at Nieuwe Teer­tuinen 24 (July 2022).


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.

Planciusstraat, Amsterdam, seen from Eerste Breeuwersstraat

Planciusstraat seen in south­western direction from Eerste Breeuwers­straat (July 2022).

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.

Salem Wijkgebouw at Planciusstraat 69-71, Amsterdam

Salem Wijkgebouw of the Dutch Reformed Congregation at Plancius­straat 69-71 (July 2022).

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.

Smallepadsgracht, Amsterdam, looking norht from Nieuwe Teertuinen

Smallepadsgracht (Narrow Path Canal) seen from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen north (June 2022).

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.

Smallepadsgracht, Amsterdam, looking south from Zoutkeetsbrug

Smallepadsgracht, looking south from Zout­keets­brug (June 2020).


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.

Zoutkeetsbrug, Amsterdam, looking east along the Zoutkeetgracht

Zoutkeetsbrug at the northern end of the Plancius­straat, looking east along the Zout­keets­gracht (July 2022).

View from Nieuwe Teertuinen, Amsterdam, along Prinseneilandsgracht towards Realengracht

View from Nieuwe Teer­tuinen along Prinsen­eilands­gracht towards Realen­gracht and Smalle­pads­gracht (June 2022).

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