Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam


The Schapenburgerpad, at Hobbemastraat 8A, is an old polder path dating from well before 1734, when it was first mentioned in a document. Enclosed between the backside of the houses on the P.C. Hooft­straat and the Vossius­straat, near the Vondel­park, the path has quite a complicated ownership history.

The many later constructions on both sides make it hard to imagine how it looked on the map historically, projected on the current situation. The gardens to the back of the shops in the expensive P.C. Hooftstraat have had almost every single square inch filled with building extensions right up to the path (and at times over the lines, stealing costly ground from the path).

Entrance to the Schapenburgerpad at Hobbemastraat 8A, Amsterdam

Entrance to the Schapenburgerpad at Hobbemastraat 8A.

Entrance to the Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam, with postbox

The other wall on the entrance to the path, with postbox for number 27 at the end of the path.

Originally it was called the Schaapherderspad (Sheperd’s Path) — it continued across the street to what is now Hobbemastraat 13, on unto the height of around P.C. Hooftstraat 10, where it would have made a 90° turn to the left towards the current Stadhouderskade, where it exited between the numbers 30 and 31.

Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam, on a map from 1811

Schapenburgerpad on a map from 1811 (under the lens), outside the city fortifications and out in the polder.
Here it is still called the Schaapherderspad (Sheperd’s Path) and it makes a 90° left turn to the Stadhouderskade.

Now it has a closed off entrance on the Hobbema­straat 8A, being a private road. Followed through, the path would exit on the Van Baerle­straat 13C, at Brandmeester’s, except that it doesn’t. Situated at 3/4 of that line, the building at Schapenburgerpad 27 closes the path off. The exit drawn on some maps between Vossiusstraat 44 and 46 also doesn’t exist anymore, as a building is being constructed there in 2021.

Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam, on a sunny day

Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam on a sunny day, viewed in the direction of the Van Baerlestraat.

Some Historical Background

Until 1821 the city of Amsterdam was closed in by a wall with fortifications, with the Singelgracht running around it as a moat. In 1387 Amsterdam got permission to apply its laws and regulations also on the strip of land wide 100 Amsterdam gaarden (368m, 1207ft) outside of its walls. Beyond that, the land was under the control of other (often older) municipalities and authorities. The Schapenburgerpad must have have been mostly within that “allowed influence” strip, but without actually belonging to the city.

Wente’s Fence

The legal ownership of the Schapenburgerpad was not stipulated in 1782 as “every owner an equal part” but as “belonging as a whole to all the owners”. When Amsterdam started to build the Hobbemastraat right across the Schapenburgerpad,  the owner’s board put up quite a fight and the City Council had to backtrack in 1888. In 1889 the city tried everything in its power to expropriate the path, without success.

The Amsterdamsche Omnibus Maatschappij (AOM, 1875-1899), a very noisy tram service with horse-drawn carriages, made matters worse by laying tram rails on the Hobbemastraat for a line from the Leidseplein to the P.C. Hooftstraat. The path owners board, led by F.H. Wente, at that point had had enough and erected a wooden fence right across the Hobbemastraat in 1890, blocking not just the tram but all other traffic too.

F.H. Wente's fence at the Hobbemastraat, Amsterdam, 1890

The fence at the Hobbemastraat. On the left the gentlemen of the land registry (cadastre).

Wente fought tooth and nail and won in the Supreme Court — the fence stayed up until 2 June 1892. In the end Amsterdam won a partial expropriation of the path later on, making at least the part of the path which the Hobbemastraat ran across completely owned by the city.

Then & Now

The Schapenburgerpad was once a popular area for walks, surrounded  by gardens and vegetable gardens. A map by Covens from around 1795 shows the name as Schaapherderspad (Sheperd’s Path), but a map from 1842 shows the current name, Schapenburgerpad (Sheep Citizen Path). The name may have been corrupted over time, but it looks like this centuries old polder path has survived mostly because of the legal ownership situation.

Schapenburgerpad, Amsterdam, towards the end

The path has been jointly owned since 1782 by private owners (notarial act). From 1908 on Amsterdam also had ownership of around 10 lots between the Vossiusstraat and the path — the city transfered this to the private parties in 2019, making right of use and maintenance of the path much simpler. Some owners waived their ownership, but they still have formal maintenance duties and right of way to reach their own gardens from the path. Schapenburgerpad 27 at the end of the path is a special case which has had right of way since around 1750, since it can only be reached via the path.

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