In the seventeenth century, a gunpowder factory was probably located where this façade now stands. The gunpowder was for the Dutch East India Company (the VOC) whose ships, which were equipped with canons, were moored in the nearby docks. Rapenburgerstraat was one of the locations where the necessary arms could be purchased. The stone plaque above the door bears witness to this. The façade itself is younger and dates from the eighteenth century. Behind the façade was a courtyard, Bussenschuthofje, access to which was via a gateway. The courtyard derived its name from the stone plaque that shows a ‘bussenschut’, or cannoneer.
Maritime activity in the area gradually declined and in 1741 the site was purchased for an orphanage for Jewish girls. The current façade was built around this time and the stone plaque was moved. This was done in order to mark the location, as there were no house numbers in those days. The courtyard with its buildings gradually fell into disrepair and by 1800 it had become an overcrowded slum. Some hundred years later it was still one of the poorest parts of Amsterdam. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the city council launched a slum clearance programme and in 1930 the dilapidated buildings in Bussenschuthofje were demolished.
The buildings on the west side of Rapenburgerstraat were completely demolished in the 1960s in order to make way for the construction of the IJtunnel. The housing block Markenhoven, designed by Atelier Pro, was completed here in 1990.The interventions on the side of the façade at number 123 were less radical. Redevelopment here was on a smaller scale and a number of relics, such as the façade with its stone plaque, were retained. All in all, it is a miracle that the façade with its stone plaque has survived the ravages of time. Thus, a small façade with its unique plaque attests to the city’s long and eventful history. (text ARCAM/Max Smit, photo Jan De Wit)