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Cramped U.S. embassy to move out of The Hague

Controversial destination

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WASSENAAR - The U.S. government wants to move its embassy in The Hague from a downtown location to an existing estate in the affluent neighbouring community of Wassenaar. The move to the Clingendael manor would be implemented around 2010.

Currently, the embassy is located at the Lange Voorhout in a building near Parliament. To meet security concerns the city sealed off a number of sidewalks, bicycle paths and roads around the building, creating traffic problems in the surrounding downtown area, including on some of the busiest thoroughfares in the city.

The decision to move away from the city centre has been lauded, however the option of the Clingendael estate has met with major controversy. Although the Dutch government and the city council executives of The Hague and Wassenaar have agreed to cooperate with the move, their council members are unlikely to endorse to the plan. The largest municipal party faction in The Hague’s council, the Conservative VVD, plans to vote against the proposal, and has been joined by various citizens’, environmental and conservationist groups in slamming the plan.

Clingendael is one of the best and best-kept estates in the Netherlands. It is located in so-called green zone, a protected environmental barrier between urban centres. Although it is located in Wassenaar’s territory, the estate is owned by the City of The Hague. City officials have proposed three other locations to the Americans although the U.S. government has set its sights on Clingendael only.

The manor evolved from a farmhouse dated from before the middle of the 16th century. Adjacent properties were added to the estate in the following decades, including other farms, as well as an orchard and a forest. The 17th century house built on the property was expanded significantly two centuries later, giving Clingendael much of its current appeal. After 1839, the adjacent Oosterbeek landed estate was added and the manor itself expanded once more.

During the Second World War, the house was occupied by the Nazi Reich’s Commissioner for the Netherlands, Seyss-Inquart, and his family. In 1954, Clingendael became the property of the municipality of The Hague. The largely dilapidated building was restored three decades later to house the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, also known as the Clingendael Institute.