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The Last Traces of Van Gogh's Birth House May Soon Disappear

11 March 2004

By Jack Nouws

ZUNDERT, The Netherlands --

A change in building legislation in The Netherlands is having an unforeseen result: the possible demolition of Vincent van Gogh's house of birth. Wait a minute, wasn't that house torn down in 1903? That's true. In 1904 a new house was built on the spot where Van Gogh's birth house once stood. The foundations, the kitchen and the cellar of the old house, however remained, including the garden with one tree from the 1850's still standing. Even though the house at Markt 26 is not the original house, it is the house we all know, and have in our collective memory.

After years of restrictions on building projects in rural areas, the Dutch government has given several councils permission to start building housing projects. In Zundert immediate plans were made to tear down several old buildings and replace them with apartments. Tearing down the old Rabobank building adjacent to the Reformed Church where Vincent's father was a vicar is not much of a loss, but replacing it with a seven-story apartment complex next to the church is horrific. The house next to Markt 26 has a garden virtually unchanged since the nineteenth century, an example of the way gardens, like that of the Van Gogh family, were kept in those days. There are plans to build an apartment building there. The owner is also contemplating tearing down the house itself for yet another apartment building.

This man, a real estate broker, also owns Markt 26 and there is a rumour that he has plans to tear this house down as well. It is just a rumour, but experience has taught several startled inhabitants of Zundert that rumours often turn out to be true. Sources told me if the owner wants to tear down the house, there is nothing that can prevent him. The house is neither a national nor a local monument and he can do with it what he pleases.

Several inhabitants from Zundert, like the director of the Cultural Center Vincent van Gogh, Kees Verdaasdonk, and local artist Peter Dictus, have founded the pressure group ZOZ, Zorg om Zundert (Care for Zundert) to make clear that Zundert has to be careful with the Van Gogh inheritance.

Maybe the world should make this clear to Zundert as well.

Jack Nouws:

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