In a pensive mood Tineke Kolff-Sutherland looks at the pond at the former residence of her father-in-law, where she herself has also lived for many years. “I think”, she says, “there must still be many Dinky Toys of my children at the bottom of this pond.” The pre-war villa behind her is beautiful, and the dune landscape around it is breathtaking. This is how all of Wassenaar must have looked like in former days. The Villa Nijenhorst at the Koekoekslaan is for sale for quite a long time now. Because there are no residents Carel van der Schalk Kamberg of Schouwenhage estate agents agreed to show us around in this capital villa. It is always nice to see which ideas the pre-war ‘rich’ had (the house was built in 1925) in building their own villa’s.
The entrance immediately strikes as impressive. A great hall with an open fire place and a wide ‘luxury’ staircase leading to the upper floor. From the hall one has a view into the living room, which connects to other rooms such as the Herenkamer (Gentleman’s Room), the dining room, and the closed veranda, all of them interconnected. And all of them with a splendid view onto a garden on which’s beauty we will happily come back later.
A kitchen at which the cook of an orphanage would be able to move with ease and other smaller servant quarters complete the ground floor plan. At the first floor, and on the attic, the same applies. Many, many bedrooms, three bathrooms, showers, dressing rooms, in short, a ‘bak’ (cannot translate this: simply said: large house, Ed.) of a house.
It is not hard to get details on the origin of the house, because the son of the first owner is still living at Wassenaar. Herman Kolff (CBCD XVIIw – Member of Honour of the Association [Ed.]): “My father was a Rotterdammer and he owned a (river) Rhine shipping company named ‘Helvetia’. When he was forty years of age he sold this business to a French group and since then he never worked again.” This story confirms the assertion that aspecially the southern part of Wassenaar grew from wealthy Rotterdammers, who preferred – from the beginning of the 1920s – to live in the Wassenaar dunes rather than the ‘bare’ Rotterdam suburbs with villa’s at Hillegersberg and Kralingen.
So Herman’s father, Jan Kolff, had feathered his nest and bought, in 1925, land at the Koekoekslaan in Wassenaar; a piece of land estimated at 10,000 square meters. “Our garden,” Herman continues, “stretched from the Schouwweg up to the Konijnenlaan. At the Schouwweg side my father had a tennis court laid out, further there were a duck pond, rabbit shelters, a vegetable garden, and more of those kind of funny features.”
Because of the sale of parts of it, the grounds are now somewhat smaller, but still number something like 6,000 square meters.
“Herman’s father,” his wife Tineke Kolff-Sutherland takes over the conversation, “named the house Duin en Dennen (Dune and Pines). What a pity that they changed the name, for look at it, the major part of the grounds consists of dunes and pine trees.”
One can hardly speak of a garden here. From the terraces, whereafter a lawn and a pond have been laid out, one notices nothing but beautiful old dune landscape, wavying up and down, at which trees and bushes can grow as they like.
Tineke and Herman had five children at this house, “and with them,” continues Tineke, “I raised three children from Herman’s previous marriage”, “It was a paradise,” she sighs, “and a more romantic playground for the children one can hardly imagine. By dinner time I sounded the great bell, that hung at the side of the house, to get the children back inside.”
During the occupation years (1940-1945) the house was confiscated. At first by the Grüne Polizei and after that by the Dutch NSB. The Kolff family found shelter, amongst other places, at Warmond. In the publication Wassenaar in de Tweede Wereldoorlog this house, and a picture of it, is mentioned on page 270. Many Wassenaarders have been interrogated and were tortured here. In more recent years the house has been leased to foreigners. Janine Poot, a resident – with husband and three children – of the former porters’ lodge of the house Duin en Dennen, at Konijnenlaan, says: “The last tenants were Americans, who kept a lot of pets. One day I brought them back a rabbit, that had wondered up to my garden, and I heard in the living a snoring sound. That came from a little pig (hangbuikzwijn, Ed.) that was running around there. One may hope that the new owners have a good sense of the beauty of this old dune landscape, for anyone who cuts down anything such as a bush or a tree, ought to be jailed.”
Sprekend Wassenaar, issued by ‘De Nieuwe Haagsche’, 2002, Ed. R. van Lit, Red. C.D. Eisma, E.M.Ch.M. Janson, R. van Lit, drs. D. den Ouden (ISBN 90-77032-27-4) Wassenaar in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, issued by Stichting Wassenaar ’40 – ’45, 1995, Red. F.R. Hazenberg, A.N.W. Kenens, R. van Lit (ISBN 90-802362-1-7)