De Kempenaer House for sale?

Is there, after 15 years of vacancy and decay, finally hope for the villa at Eisenhowerlaan 132, De Kempenaer House? For a long time, the Municipality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs let the decay happen, being unable to enforce a restoration and wanting to stay away from arguing openly with owner Saudi Arabia. Members of the local council, the local press, BAS Foundation and others have demanded action loud and clear, and as it seems things are beginning to move. Alexander Weissink gives an update in Het Financieele Dagblad of June 17, 2023 (in Dutch). The Saudian ambassador has been addressed and the Municipality is prepared to enforce restoration. How will this continue? Saudi Arabia is willing to sell the property. Will the house continue to be in decay or will a new owner restore De Kempenaer to its former glory? We sincerely hope for the latter.

dome of De Kempenaer House
The dome of De Kempenaer House in better days Ⓒ Maarten Ruijters


The pinnacle

The new year started with a big bang: in the beginning of January the pinnacle on the corner of Frederik Hendrikplein 34 ended up in the demolition waste container. In April 2020 BAS initiated a widely supported objection to the granted environmental permit. The neighborhood, local politicians, the press and our ally The Friends of The Hague Association were shocked and angry that this damage to the heart of our State Protected City Scape Statenkwartier was allowed without further ado. The process of filing an objection to the municipality and appealing to the court lasted the entire year 2021 and at the time of writing in 2022 we are still waiting for the final decision by the judge. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done, as the owner quickly made use of the permit to destroy this historic feature before the court rule on our legal objection. The same time line applies to the similar legal process against the planned additional roof storey of Frederik Hendrikplein 30. At this moment we are still waiting for the verdicts.

Frederik Hendrikplein 34 – architectural fake history in the place of the demolished pinnacle. The case is still under appeal, but the owner has already acted in advance of the court ruling. © Maarten Ruijters

Action, action

In addition, we took action against about 30 other building plans that conflicted with the State Protected City Scape. The majority of these plans were clearly visible roof structures in landmark places and disturbingly visible roof terraces, as well as a few plastic window frames in otherwise authentic building blocs. We then submitted our expert report to the municipal Monuments and Building Aesthetics Committee, which subsequently issued their negative advice in many cases, partly based on our arguments. Where necessary we also objected to the permits granted – with and without success – or we reported illegal constructions to the municipal enforcement team (Pandbrigade). Praise is due for the Pandbrigade which always took action quickly and decisively. In half of the cases the initiative lay with concerned local residents, the other matters came to light because we keep a close eye on the daily municipal reports.

A request for a roof terrace, out of sight from the other side of the street, but disturbingly in sight from the long round bend of the street. BAS submitted an expert report and the Monuments and Building Aesthetics Committee gave a negative opinion. © Maarten Ruijters
A request for an additional roof storey which was rejected twice in the Monuments and Building Aesthetics Committee. BAS submitted an expert report for this purpose. © Taco Mooren


The Neighborhood Committee Statenkwartier asked for our advice regarding the replacement of Dick’s Snackcar at Frederik Hendrikplein, another long running and ambiguous affair. We also gave advice to local residents with questions about their own building plans or concerns about the building plans of the neighbors. We submitted two Freedom of Information Act requests, one about the new building planned on top of the Kettenis garage in the Van Beverningkstraat and one about the heavily neglected national monument Huize de Kempenaer, owned by the embassy of Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately the replies to our requests arrived well after the legally required deadline for a respons and provided disappointingly little information.

The proposed new location and enlarged size of Dick’s Snackcar, still under consideration by the municipality © Google Earth, Maarten Ruijters, Paul van Leeuwen

Local politics

We also looked well beyond the borders of our neighborhood and to the future. Abe van der Werff was the secretary of a joint report of the nine State Protected City Scape neighborhoods in The Hague. This report about our shared problems was presented to Alderman Balster. There will be a follow-up meeting with the Urban Development Department. In the meantime the Municipality has started the consultation process for the forthcoming Environment Act. This Act will have a big impact for all the regulations for municipal planning and building permits. In December BAS took the initiative to draft the joint input for the Environmental Vision (the first step in the Environmental Act) on behalf of the State Protected City Scapes Neighborhoods and The Friends of The Hague Association. We submitted two documents for public participation in January. The start of the new year 2022!

Farewell to the Muratti glass plate

For over a century this beautiful antique glass advertisement by Muratti Cigarettes adorned the facade of the cigar shop on Fred 152. Since the construction of the building block in 1906, the cigar shop was located on the corner with Statenlaan. Originally it was a branch of A. Hillen from Delft, the oldest cigar factory in the Netherlands dating from 1770. You can still see, above the shop door, the year 1770 prominently displayed in the authentic lettering. Hillen went bankrupt in 1937, but the place has remained a luxury cigar shop ever since. The last 30 years it housed the well-known Cigarros Adelante. However, this summer Adelante closed the store and the classic wooden interior has gone to make way for the new tenant, a barber shop. The barbershop owner wants to attach its own bill board in the place of the Muratti advertisement and had the antique glass plate removed.

The advertisement, in Jugendstil, is a so-called veined glass plate. The letters and images are first sandblasted in black polished veined glass. Then the roughened and recessed surfaces are inlaid with gold leaf. This glass plate is even more special because of the inlays of blue and red glass.

Only a handful of these veined glass advertisements have survived in their original sites, but unfortunately, advertisements, however old and valuable, are not protected as a monument.

The Muratti glass plate at Fred 152, until recently © Marja Langenberg

Fortunately, the glass plate was safely removed by the owner of the building. What will happen next is still uncertain. If the glass plate can’t be maintained in place it should be preserved for the public. Fortunately, the National Glass Museum in Leerdam expressed the wish to include the plate in its collection. The Hague heritage organizations SHIE, Friends of The Hague, The Hague Historical Museum and BAS also hope for Leerdam as the final destination.

1925. A market stall in front of the shop of cigar factory A. Hillen with the name and the founding year 1770 above the shop windows. © Haags Gemeente Archief

Filling in the gaps!

Attentive locals roaming our Statenkwartier will notice new houses are popping up filling in the gaps between the existing building blocks. One by one, almost unnoticed. The architecture fits into the overall image of the street, you get the impression these houses have been there all the time. What is going on here? The Hague is short on housing and the municipal policy is to build extra housing in existing neighborhoods, recently also seen in the protected city sites of Statenkwartier and Duinoord. Owners of garage boxes or other low-rise buildings between the building blocks seize the opportunity to demolish them and replace them with new three-storey houses or apartments. At first sight, it is an improvement when a neglected and vacant warehouse or garage box is replaced by a well-designed new building.

Van Boetzelaerlaan: well-designed new-built housing on top of former garage boxes, 2018. © Marja Langenberg

But be aware: as regards urban planning it is often a deterioration if the open space between the blocks diminishes and the original profile of the street gets narrower. When the Statenkwartier was designed and built, the aim was to emphasize the rural character of the new neighborhood in the dunes by allowing light and air by building open building blocks instead of traditional closed building blocks. The designated use and the permitted heights -and more- of all the buildings in the Statenkwartier are specified in the current zoning plan. If the owner goes for a different use or a higher building he needs a special municipal permit. However, off late the municipality is quite easy-going in granting exemptions.

Van Beverningkstraat,
Willem de Zwijgerlaan

At the moment a proposal has been submitted for the replacement of the Kettenis garage boxes annex workshop with new-build apartments in the Van Beverningkstraat on the corner of the Willem de Zwijgerlaan. This is against the destinated use and height in the zoning plan. Let us remain alert to this development. BAS will ask the municipality about the criteria for granting permits to replace these low buildings by three-storey housing blocks.

Van Beverningkstraat : number 103 with new-built housing on top of a former workshop (2016) and the Kettenis Garage at number 101 © Marja Langenberg

Strong support for our objection against granting an environmental permit for Frederik Hendrikplein 34!

Supported by over 60 residents BAS has filed the notice of objection.

The flyer campaign generated a lot of publicity and support. At least 25 residents have either objected to the municipality or have authorized BAS to do so on their behalf. BAS also lodged its notice of objection with the municipality on behalf of these 25 proxy holders. In addition, BAS also received about 40 statements of support in another form, which BAS attached to the BAS notice of objection.

In the notice of objection BAS architect Maarten Ruijters discusses the damage to architectural values ​​in detail. Attached to it is a second expert report by monuments architect Evert Jan Nusselder, illustrating in word and images how the protected historic city scape is affected. The Friends of The Hague Association (1700 members) also submitted a well-founded objection. Those three documents all underscore the incorrect assumptions and internal contradictions in the earlier advice of the municipal Monuments and Building Aesthetics Committee.

The view of the roof structure to be built as in the environmental permit (© ir. E.J. Nusselder)

What’s the  importance of designating a protected city scape conservation area when the private interest of a real estate owner outweighs the heritage values? When this environmental permit is not withdrawn, all remaining turrets and pinnacles in the Statenkwartier will be in danger and the protected cityscapes throughout The Hague should fear the worst. This precedent should be avoided!

An environmental permit was also granted on April 22 for Frederik Hendrikplein 30 – part of the same iconic architectural ensemble as number 34. Here too, the applicant wishes to build an inappropriate additional roof storey. BAS will also file an objection against this environmental permit.

Are these turrets and pinnacles also in danger? (© Maarten Ruijters)

Protest to the demolition of the pinnacle for an additional storey at Frederik Hendrikplein 34!

To everyone’s surprise and horror, the city council granted an environmental permit for the demolition of the authentic pinnacle and the construction of an additional rooftop storey at Frederik Hendrikplein 34.

Frederik Hendrikplein 29-36, the unspoiled ensemble.

The Frederik Hendrikplein is the shining centerpiece of the State Protected City Site Statenkwartier (Rijks Beschermd Stadsgezicht). The damage to this striking corner building will diminish the architectural value and outlook of the square. The building block Frederik Hendrikplein 29-36 must keep its authentic and unspoiled architectural ensemble character. We are afraid that this building permit grant is creating a precedent for future applications by owners striving to enrich themselves in a quick way by building more additional rooftop storeys and thus demolishing other authentic architectural features.

BAS will file an objection with the municipality against this granted environmental permit on the grounds of a violation of State Protected City Scape and of the damage to the cultural and historical value of the building block and the square. The residents and neighbors of the square received a flyer from BAS in which we call for all interested parties to make an objection. The more objections, the more difficult it becomes for city council. BAS has already received several dozen responses from concerned residents objecting to these nefarious plans and we will assist in filing these objections. They will hear from us soon.

Click here for the flyer.