News Articles

Architects follow trail of Golden Age traders to restore monuments

Heritage sites abroad evidence of a very interesting history

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

Dutch explorers and traders as well as architects and builders have left their 'footprints' in every part of the world, although mostly in coastal regions. These traces include entire cities, fortifications, warehouses, stately residences of merchants, waterworks such as urban canal systems, dikes, polders and even a drawbridge. Many of these were built during the colonial Dutch era but fine examples can be found in areas where the Dutch had no colonial presence, while the oldest found its way into Estonian records in 1362.

In recent years, the Dutch are acknowledging these footprints and traces as part of a precious cultural heritage, deserving attention and also preservation, even if these are far from the Netherlands itself. Dutch agencies such as the Department for Conservation (RDMZ) now assist conservation efforts anywhere it is needed, including heritage projects involving 'footprints' and traces left by others.

Monument Care abroad is now an aspect of Dutch foreign affairs policy which has identified eight priority countries meriting special attention, namely Surinam, Brazil, Russia, Ghana, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia but Dutch heritage sites can be found as well in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, the USA, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Estonia and even in various places in England. The list of countries with such mayor sites is far from exhaustive.

The presence of the heritage sites offers export opportunities. When The Three Sisters in Tallin, Estonia needed restoration, the owners of the former Dutch merchant's residences turned to a Dutch architect to help turn them into a first class hotel. The houses that were owned by Richard and Johannes Ryke in the 1370s are now fit for royalty and even show Queen Beatrix' name in their guest registry.

Elsewhere, such as in Surinam, Fort Zeelandia still stands today. In the centre of Malacca, Malaysia, the Stadthuys Building and Christ Church are among the oldest buildings still in use. In the U.S.A. there are numerous Dutch heritage sites built for residents in colonial as well as those built for the governors. Among these are the archaeological remains of Fort Goede Hoop (modern Hartford, Connecticut) and Fort Orange (modern Albany, New York).

During the 17th and 18th century, the Dutch East India Company had several large trading stations and factories in Thailand. The main one was in Ayutthaya. The many Dutch records remaining are important sources for the history of Ayutthaya and offer much information in seventeenth century Dutch on the country as well. Excavations are taking place at the site of the Dutch lodge and preparations are underway to build a small museum near the site.

In addition to Surinam distant Taiwan also has a Fort Zeelandia, an old castle completed by the Dutch in 1634 after 10 years of hard work. Originally built to serve as a commercial base for the Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC), it later became the local government center for the Dutch Government. Fort Zeelandia is one of the few heritage sites in Taiwan that have embraced many cultures. Fort Zeelandia was later designated as an arsenal. In 1874, when Taiwan's Eternal Golden Castle was built, much of the construction materials came from Fort Zeelandia. After 300 years, only 3 walls remain of the once magnificent fort.