Peter Wilhelm Janssen, raised in the Lutheran faith, immigrated to Amsterdam from Bremen in 1843. He came from a trading family and was well educated. Janssen entered the grain trade and, after 1867, the tobacco trade. His famous Deli-Maatschappij (company) cultivated tobacco on Sumatra and very successfully traded it on the Amsterdam stock exchange.


View of P.W. Janssenhofje in the Da Costastraat


Janssen’s own explanation for his success was that he was lucky. This was his reason to do good with his wealth. He gave money to countless charitable institutions and initiated the building of this neo-Renaissance courtyard where poor people of any faith could live.


Positioning the bust of philanthropist P.W. Janssen on the Bellamyplein. Photo: Ben Merk


There were fifteen houses built around the courtyard. Ten of these were inhabited by 56 people free of charge. Four houses with sixteen dwellings were rented, and the proceeds spent on maintenance. The supervisor lived in the middle of the courtyard and ensured that the rules were followed: no alcohol, obligatory helping of sick neighbours, and be back in the courtyard before eleven o’clock.


During renovation works in the 1970s, all the original windows, doors and the reliefs on the façades were removed. Recent work on the courtyard restored it to its original state. The houses are still inhabited, mostly by senior citizens. Shortly after his death in 1903, a bust was erected on the Bellamyplein (square) in honour of P.W. Janssen.