Het Huys Ten Donck
A short history
Het Huys ten Donck is a luxurious 18th century estate in Ridderkerk, near Rotterdam (Netherlands), one of Netherlands most important monuments with its renowned main building, several side buildings and one of the oldest landscape gardens in the Netherlands. The main building is a Rococo country mansion was built in 1746 by Otto Groeninx van Zoelen replacing the older castle built in 1616 from his mothers’ family Van Zoelen, both named Het Huys ten Donck. The family reside permanently in Rotterdam and came to the estate via the river the Maas, to receive guests, family and international relations.
Otto Groeninx van Zoelen (1704- 1758), was – like several of the Groeninx van Zoelen regent family – mayor of Rotterdam and managing director (Rotterdam Chamber) of the 17th century East India Company (V.O.C.). Het Huys ten Donck remained in use by his descendants as a summer residence and reception house until the 1920’s, when the 7th generation (W.G. Groeninx van Zoelen) equipped the house with electricity and heating, adjusting it for permanent residence as of then.
In the 1980’s the Huys ten Donck Foundation and family Groeninx van Zoelen opened up the House to the public, first mainly for corporate entertainment and private celebrations, according to the English and French examples. As of 2010 it also became an official marriage location and the House has become a preferred location for many organizations, family businesses and entrepreneurs to organize their strategic meetings, off site gatherings and anniversaries. For the public there are yearly recurring activities on a seasonal basis and for international groups there are small-scale exclusive tours.
Today the house is still partly inhabited by the 9th & 10th generation descendants of Otto Groeninx van Zoelen making it very special with its noticeable personal touch. The largest part of the house is let for the receptions and productions and open on inscription for the seasonal activities.
The park, the mansion and its collection
The house is renowned for its richly decorated Rococo paneling and superb stucco ceilings, as well as for its authentic collection of paintings, tapestries, tableware and furniture. The collection is ‘rich’ as the house was originally built as a formal reception house.
Lower & first floors both have spacious and high, richly decorated rooms, annex to the gardens at the ground floor, with the first floor overseeing the gorgeous view lines to the river Maas on the North side and over the whole length of the estate on the South side. Together with its landscape gardens and annexes, Het Huys ten Donck forms an extraordinary large-scale ensemble on the edge of the river Maas.
The charity foundation ‘Stichting Het Huys ten Donck’ is responsible for the whole upkeep of the estate, and to ensure the continuation, cohesion and liveliness of the ensemble of the House with the historic elements in the Park and all historic side-buildings and garden folly’s. And to ensure the continuation of the original purpose of Het Huys ten Donck: to receive and entertain guests, to enjoy the splendor and craftsmanship of the house and the park, and to always have a family member living there for representative purposes and to keep its warm ‘homely’ atmosphere.
Actual and future developments
Recognized as one of top-20 Dutch monuments, the estate is supported by state subsidies and through the years has also participated in several innovative pilot-projects, hence also taking a front-runner position. Sponsors and foundations on a local, regional and national level such as G.Ph. Verhage Stichting, Stichting Fonobori, Fonds voor Cultuurparticipatie, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht, Job Dura Fonds and De Groot Fonds and private donations have over the past recent years made important contributions to restauration projects on the estate. A committed group of volunteers are involved on a weekly basis in the upkeep of the interiors and the gardens, guided by professionals and all the yearly activities are dependent on the proactive organization by a large group of volunteers.
To face today’s combined challenges the Huys ten Donck foundation has been formulating a long-term plan to provide a stable and sustainable future for this unique historic estate in a modern context. As mentioned, the valuable, but vulnerable collection and the extensive gardens are cared for by several dedicated teams of volunteers under professional supervision.
Between 2010-2025 major structural restoration, renovation and conservation works are being executed to bring the House, its interior collection, side buildings and Park with all its monuments and conversation pieces, to the next level of restauration, fit to fulfill several new functions and its role as a hospitable, lively estate and an example of pure craftsmanship and Dutch Glory!
Music @Huys ten Donck
As part of the important restoration of the unique interior ensembles of Het Huys ten Donck, in 2022 the preparation for the conservation and all-over restoration of the house’s Bechstein grand piano -dating from 1905 started. Supported by the G.Ph. Verhage Foundation, the Bechstein is expected to re-enter the house in the autumn of 2023! The Grand Reception Room of the House was originally built for entertainment and for receiving guests. For this a proper musical program is unmissable in the experience of Het Huys ten Donck, with the 2-floor high ceilings obviously meant for superb acoustics. This fabulous stucco ceiling from the late 1770’s also refers to this original use of the room as one of the hobbies of the builder of the House depicted in the ornaments in the ceiling, as a collection of musical instruments. Right underneath this ornament stands the centuries old Bechstein and is the ‘stage’ for musical rehearsals and concerts.