The history of the neighbourhood goes back to the 16th century, with large country houses on the edge of the Haagse Bos and a peat polder. After the disaster of 3 March 1945, the neighbourhood was redeveloped and acquired its current contemporary character.
In the thirteenth century, cold feet and the desire for some tender meat was the reason why the Counts of Holland decided to reclaim the peat bogs south of the Haagse Bos. The nobles constructed the ' Noble track', the current Bezuidenhoutseweg, to be able to transport the fuel (peat) and cattle.
In imitation of Amalia van Solms, who built her summerhouse in 1645 − the current Huis ten Bosch, well-to-do residents of The Hague constructed country estates. The Hague later used the area beside this road for the construction of 'grand residences', primarily for prominent people such as Bellevue (1750) for the lawyer Lyonnet (later converted to a hotel), Huis Ter Noot (on the site of the former Ministry of Agriculture) and Huize Zandvliet for Professor Schwencke (1854). The Staatsspoor railway station arrived in 1878 and the Koningin Emma Park around 1885. The Sociëteit De Witte opened the 'Tent in het Bosch' (tent in the woods) an outdoor venue for music and entertainment in the Walther Boer Meadow of the Haagse Bos.
Then things started to happen fast in Bezuidenhout. These colossal buildings made way for less pretentious town houses. After 1915, the large-scale construction of houses took place further to the east, in accordance with the Berlage Expansion Plan.
The city of The Hague was penniless after the war. The city administration was faced with the huge task of reconstruction. Not only was Bezuidenhout devastated by the bombing, but the city also had an acute housing shortage because no homes had been built for years and the number of residents in The Hague had increased rapidly. It also lacked equipment, supplies, skilled manpower and funds.
Consequently, the reconstruction of Bezuidenhout was slow to get going and in this situation it was decided to build as many houses as possible with as few resources as possible. No large houses, no high rooms and no more than four stories. This resulted in maisonettes, like the ones in the Amalia van Solmsstraat. Two houses with a single front door, that could easily be converted into a single house at a later time.
The Bezuidenhout reconstruction plan was adopted in 1951, which included the widening of the Utrechtesbaan, the expansion of the railways, and the construction of government offices. The area next to the station therefore became enclosed, which created the urban island of 'Bezuidenhout C', currently called Bezuidenhout-West. It became a mixture of 1930s blocks of flats with a shared entrance and 1970s social housing, along with the urban landmark of the Witte Anna high-rise block of flats (1987). The first new government and other office buildings arrived in the neighbourhood, including the Ministry of Agriculture (1950) and the Royal Conservatory (1980).
The centre of the neighbourhood remained empty for a long time, which was an ideal playground for children. The recovery and reconstruction work took over 60 years.
The former grandeur of Bezuidenhout returned to the neighbourhood at the beginning of this century, but in a modern form. Many buildings from the reconstruction period were demolished for high-rise buildings that contained offices and residential space. Nationale Nederlanden opened its offices, 'de Haagse Poort', over the Utrechtsebaan in 1995. This is considered to be the modern city gateway to The Hague. Offices started arriving on the green strip beside the Schenkkade, from Siemens to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment and others. The 'Monument van de Menselijke Vergissing' (monument of the human mistake), was unveiled behind the ministry in 1995 during the ceremony commemorating the bombing of 3 March 1945.
As a result of all this, a new business centre was created around the Utrechtsebaan, the 'Beatrix quarter'. The Netkous tram fly-over from Randstad Rail (2004) is a striking element in this area, surrounded by modern buildings such as Centre Court (2003), the Prinsenhof (2006) and the Monarch (2011). The town houses in the Amelia van Solmstraat are an example of modern houses constructed in an older style.
Text: Pepijn van der Vliet and Lia van den Broek.
Sources: Van der Kleij en Haijer (Het Bezuidenhout 2000 - 2010, 2010); Anemaa.
Images: Haagse Beeldbank.
Translation: TvS Vertalingen.
Editor: 3 March '45 Foundation.