The village of Wassenaar, situated at the edge of the dunes, stretches out from the sea on its Western flank, to The Hague on its south side. The area is known to have been inhabited since approx. 1800 BC. Its first inhabitants found the sandbanks to be safe and dry, amidst the marshy dunes, exposed as they were to the sea at the time. Around 1150, a church was built here, dedicated to Willibrord, the Anglosaxon missionary who in the 7th century, brought Christianity to the area. Close to the church was a fortress, a large fortified building on an artificial hill, which was only discovered in the 20th century. This hill was called Wassenaar (meaning “steep hill,” according to some, of “close to wetlands” according to others.) The barons of Wassenaer, who owned the fortress and much of the land here, as well as the ancient village with the church, re believed to owe their name to this hill.
Manor houses The small village centre of Wassenaar remained as it was for centuries, but the sandbanks between The Hague and the old village were soon discovered by wealthy people from The Hague, who sought out the beautiful surroundings to build their manors. Clingendael and Duinrell were built in the 17th century. Around 1795, Wassenaar had no less than 26 manor houses.
Famous inhabitants A few famous inhabitants of these manor houses were so influential that their marks are still visible in the present day Wassenaar. Adriaan Pieter Twent van Raaphorst, who lived in Huis De Paauw and was Minister of the interior, public works and water management under King Louis Napoleon, paved the road in 1805 from The Hague to Haarlem, now known as the N44/A44. Between 1838 and 1881, Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, brother of King William II, owned not only Huis De Paauw, but also acquired many neighbouring estates, creating one large interconnected green area.
Village of villas The creation of the Hofpleinlijntje, a railway between the cities of The Hague and Rotterdam in 1908, made Wassenaar accessible to people from Rotterdam who also wanted to live out in the country. The construction of the tramline The Hague-Wassenaar-Leiden in 1923-1925 meant that wealthy city dwellers could now live by the sea. From the early 20th century onwards, Wassenaar drew thousands of new inhabitants. As the landlords passed away, large plots of land became available, which land companies then split into smaller parcels. Attractive villa parks were built. The train and the tram have long disappeared, but Wassenaar is still famous for its villas. The town now has over 25,000 inhabitants.
Unique historic photographs The town hall of Wassenaar has an image archive containing an impressive collection of photographs. Wassenaar has traditionally been widely known for its beautiful manors and villas. Many of these historic buildings can be found in the photo archive. If you search for “villa” or “landgoed” (country estate), scores of monumental buildings will appear on the screen. Many of these houses no longer exist. There are also some historic 19th century photographs of former mayors of Wassenaar and of Prince Frederick and his family. Frederick was the second son of King William I of the Netherlands. From 1838 until his death in 1881, he lived in Huize De Paauw, which now houses the photo archive.
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