Wassenaar: Living in a Haunted Palace

King of Slums

Early in July 2018, the rapidly decaying historical manor house and the surrounding wooded park Ívicke at Rust en Vreugdlaan 2 in Wassenaar were squatted. Built as a little paradise — degraded to a real estate speculator’s plaything. His name is Ronnie van de Putte: a man with an eye-catching reputation in the world of real estate, infamous for speculating with prime locations and deliberately letting cultural heritage rot away for decades. In the seventies and eighties he acquired the nickname the ‘King of Slums’ and ‘Van de Beerputte’ (‘beerput’ is Dutch for ‘cesspool’). Van de Putte made a fortune buying real estate and reselling it for profit, but he never built or developed anything. For decades, Bever Holding (the real estate fund held by Ronnie and his wife Ria) has left a trail of slums and urban voids throughout the Netherlands and Belgium. Among Van de Putte’s most noteworthy achievements are the total deterioration of a former monastery in Zeeland (abandoned for thirty years) and inviting the collapse of an old horse stable in Noordwijk, creating quite a stir in March 2018, after the place burnt for the third time and the owner still refused to clean up the mess. Also his “Void of Palace” (where the Palace Hotel was located) and the Vuurtorenplein are an ongoing subject of conflict between Van de Putte and the municipality of Noordwijk. In Leiden, a little further south, Ronnie played the same game with the ‘Void of Van de Putte’, right in front of the train station. In 2005, during the kick-off of the nationwide Woonstrijd! Action Tour (‘Woonstrijd’ means ‘Fight for Housing’), the void and the neighbouring office building were squatted and turned into Vrijplaats Multipleks († 2015). Due to clerical errors, the municipality failed to expropriate the building from Van de Putte, which, in 2010, resulted in councilman Van Woensel (VVD: the liberal party) acquiescing to the ‘King of Slums’ and rewarding him handsomely for twenty years of deceiving the municipality: to the tune of 17,9 million euros!

Autonomous living-working community

Enough about that political party, that typically draws the attention of the media every week with yet another scandal and that slumlord from Wassenaar, who currently spends most of his days like a king in Switzerland. Let’s instead talk about the squatters who now spend their days in between the filthy rich in Wassenaar! After all, despite repeated requests and a periodic penalty payment imposed by the municipality, Bever Holding is still shying away from their responsibilities for the historic mansion, which gave grounds to the motivated group of homeless people — that actually knows how to take care of business — to squat the place. With help from friends and family, they directly started improving the appearance of the terrain, which is easily visible from the busy road between The Hague and Leiden. By cutting away the overgrowing bushes and grasses, the old paving appeared; and of course they started dredging the swimming pool. In the meantime, an autonomous living-working community has emerged, with workspaces and a concert venue. Huize Ívicke regularly opens its doors for activities suchh as people’s kitchen and concert nights, with an occasional festival to boot.


Fuelled by online stories disseminated by superstitious kids playing with ouija boards, Ívicke had already gained popularity as an iconic haunted palace, way before it was squatted (which figuratively speaking actually was the case, since the place had served as a ’mailbox’ for several ghost firms affiliated with Van de Putte). On a web-forum, the last anti-squatter (property guardian occupier) that lived there years ago claimed that the person ‘guarding’ Huize Ívicke before him had sensed a ‘presence’ and was, shortly thereafter, committed to a mental institution for three months. It was therefore quite a reassurance for the squatters that the banging on the doors during the first night of occupying was coming from two cops instead of an evil spirit. Sure, a terrifying experience as well, but it turned out that they didn’t find out about the squatters and that they were only investigating the area because of a suspicious vehicle that was parked close to the property (a minor mistake by the squatters).

Political Nonsense

From the day the brand new villa residents brought their action into the public eye, positive reactions followed one after another. But there were also voices of concern about how the squatters were precisely planning to turn the tide of decay effectively. Quite remarkable actually, because in fact, just by inhabiting the building (heating the chambers and keeping the moisture out) the inhabitants protect the mansion from further decay. Indeed, vacancy entails risks. This was tellingly demonstrated by a partly burnt lawn chair that the squatters found in the sunroom, presumably lit by some lunatic who disagreed with the building’s existence. The squatters on the other hand, protecting the place as their home, have taken fire protection measures in consultation with the fire department. In short, nobody should really worry about the presence of the squatters, right? Ok, except for the in principle mortified rightwing souls of course.

Councilman Kees Wassenaar (VVD) is one of those, but to the AD newspaper he had nothing negative to declare about the squatters. Of course that’s primarily attributable to the failing policy of the municipality he’s part of. Upon the insistence of heritage preservation committees, amongst which Heemschut and the Cuypersgenootschap, time after time they promised to help save Huize Ívicke from otherwise certain doom, but never progressed beyond the imposition of a penalty payment, which was withdrawn shortly after. [In March 2019 he again antagonised the heritage preservation committees, by (as a councilman responsible for Space, Housing en Cultural Heritage) announcing that he wants to cut back €68.250,- on cultural heritage and thus shifting the responsibility for historic buildings in Wassenaar further to private individuals, Ed.]

In the aforementioned newspaper interview, in August 2018, the VVD councilman unconditionally covers for the real-estate crook Van de Putte, but chooses to remain silent about the ‘squatter scum’. It is common knowledge that the VVD seizes every opportunity to vent their liberal ‘private property before everything’ principle and to emphasise the criminal label that they’ve placed on the squatter movement, butwhen Wassenaar comes up with some bogus story in the interview, stating that he’s ’’hopeful’’ about Van de Putte’s plans, ’’but what his plans with the building precisely are I don’t know,’’ the squatters burst into laughter. If Wassenaar doesn’t even believe his own words, then how does it exactly work with all those rich asses, many of whom put their trust in the guy? The squatters however, did turn their words into deeds, by implementing the most urgent maintenance activities, from fixing the leaks, to replacing dozens of small broken windows.

Huize Ivicke
Rust en Vreugdlaan 2
2243AS Wassenaar, The Netherlands
ivickeautonoom [at] riseup [dot] net

Some squats in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL/squated/squat
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL
Events in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/NL

Source: JaKra 2018
Huize Ivicke Autonoom https://huizeivicke.noblogs.org/post/2020/04/12/jakra-2019-squatters-yearbook-entry/