Hoofdwacht is a former military guardhouse. In the days when Maastricht was a stronghold, it was here that day-to-day matters were coordinated. The building as it stands today was constructed in 1774.
In 1567, the stronghold of Maastricht was given a permanent garrison. At the same time, a central point was set up to coordinate day-to-day matters. The Hoofdwacht was the most important military guardhouse. It was here that the keys to the city gates were kept and the other military guard buildings were run, including the one on Graanmarkt and the guardhouse opposite the old Gouvernement building. The Hoofdwacht also had guard and recreation rooms for soldiers and officers. They even had their own library.
Initially, the Hoofdwacht was based in the Dinghuis. Before long, however, the military moved to Vrijthof, where a building was being constructed with rooms for soldiers and officers and for detainees.
In 1733, the decision was made to replace the Hoofdwacht. It was a long time before construction got underway, because the land first had to be acquired from the Saint Servatius Chapter. The building was completed for occupation in 1738, but its shortcomings soon became apparent: smoke pollution from the stoves, poor latrines, and subsidence. In 1773, the decision was made to replace the building.
When the new building was constructed in 1774, older elements were used. The property sits parallel with the façades of the west side of Vrijthof, but protrudes out quite a bit. The building is L-shaped. The front is divided into seven sections, on the ground floor by a gallery, and on the first floor by windows.
On the ground floor was an officers’ mess, a much bigger soldiers’ guardhouse, and a cell. On the first floor was a library for the officers (later this became the commander's room) and the room occupied by the military court.
When Maastricht ceased to be stronghold, in 1867, the Hoofdwacht retained a military function. The garrison commander remained there until 1917, when he relocated to the Tapijn barracks. The commanding officer of the police forces then had his office there. During World War II, the regional office of the youth branch of the National Socialist Movement was based here. After the war, it became an assessment centre for volunteer soldiers. Following restoration work in 1960, it housed the garrison commander of the Limburg Territorial Command, until this was disbanded in 1995. Since then, the building has been used for temporary exhibitions and other activities.
Around 1910, the city repeatedly tried to take ownership of the building in order to demolish it. Among other things, it was accused of spoiling the view of the Basilica of Saint Servatius.