Pavilion Welgelegen, Haarlem

Pavilion Welgelegen in Haarlem

Villa Welgelegen is located at the north end of the public park Haar­lemmer­hout in Haar­lem, 40 km (25 mi) west of Amsterdam, near the coast. This Neo-Classical pavilion, made famous by original owner Henry Hope (1735-1811) and later the favorite residence of Holland’s French King Louis Napoleon, has been the seat of the Provincial Executives (Gedeputeerde Staten) of the province of North Holland since 1930.

View of Pavilion Welgelegen, Haarlem, from the south

View of Pavilion Welgelegen from the south. On the left the Laocoön Group statue (January 2023).

Probable Architect

We do not know for sure who designed the L-shaped villa. In 1825 Belgian architect Goetghebuer wrote that the villa had been designed by Michel Triquetti (the consul of Sardinia who lived in Amsterdam) and had been built by architect Jean-Baptiste Dubois. But in 2007 the archives of the Hope family revealed that owner Henry Hope had made five quite substantial payments — between 1785 and 1790 — to Abraham van der Hart (1747-1820), who was then Amsterdam’s official master builder. It is therefore likely that Van der Hart was responsible for at least some of it, maybe based on ideas provided by Triquetti.

The two wings of the villa were designed with distinct functions: the south wing contained three large rooms and a high square middle hall (meant to display the art collection), the west wing served as living quarters for the banker. Italian sculptor Francesco Righetti (1749-1819) created 12 lead sculptures for the garden, of which seven remain. The statue of Laocoön and His Sons (the Laocoön Group), south side of the pavilion, is a smaller copy of the marble one in the Vatican. The original lead one was restored by the Rijks­museum and is now displayed in their Atrium, a bronze copy was placed here in 2009, in the garden of Welgelegen.

Sculpture of Bacchus and Ampelos by Francesco Righetti in the garden of Welgelegen, Haarlem

Sculpture of Bacchus and Ampelos, by Francesco Righetti in the garden of Welgelegen (January 2023).

History of the Villa

Welgelegen was commissioned as a summer home by Henry Hope (1735-1811), of the famous Hope & Co banking company. It replaced the existing homestead he purchased here in 1769. Construction took place between 1785 and 1789, the resulting complex much larger and grander than the neighboring summer homes of Amsterdam mayors and bankers. Henry even persuaded the Haarlem and Heemstede councils to redesign the public parks next to his property. He collected many paintings, artworks and sculptures and had renowned artisans design the interior.

Henry invited many famous visitors here, among them William V of Orange and Thomas Jefferson. In 1794, when the French army invaded Holland, Henry Hope fled to England with most of his art collection. He left the property in 1807 to his nephew John Williams Hope, who had remained in Amsterdam to take care of the Hope banking business. John sold the villa in 1808 to Emperor Napoleon’s brother Louis, who had been made King of Holland. Louis gave the villa its current name by calling it “my pavilion” — but he had to leave in 1810 when his emperor brother annexed Holland and forced him to abdicate. Some of the Empire style furniture which Louis ordered for his pavilion is still there, including his bed.

View of the Haarlem Pavilion from the park in 1815, by Frederik Christiaan Bierweiler

View of the Haarlem Pavilion from the park in 1815, by Frederik Christiaan Bierweiler (Noord-Hollands Archief).

After the French had been defeated in 1812, Welgelegen became the property of the Dutch government. Between 1813 and 1820 Princess Wilhelmina of Prussia, the widow of Stadtholder William V, spent her summers here. The costly maintenance of the building caused the state to offer it to Haarlem for sale in 1828, but the city of Haarlem declined. King William I then decided to make the villa into a museum, and thus several different museums were located here between 1853 and 1918.

The former coach house was demolished in the 1950s and replaced with a new construction. With the last restoration in 2007-2009, the rooms, decorations and Empire furniture were restored to their original state. Five chandeliers by Michel van Overbeeke were added. The former music hall was remodeled and is now a meeting room for the Provincial Executives (Gedeputeerde Staten). The park grounds and many historic rooms are open to the public on week days during office hours (09:00-17:00), admission is free.

Photo Gallery of Pavilion Welgelegen (February 2023)

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