Het Gouverneurshuis, Heusden

| Vittoria Roitero

It looks as if I have landed in a painting by Johannes Vermeer; I look out on a polder with the historic fortified town of Heusden in the background under a blue sky with threatening clouds. Of course I park my car again for free in the spacious parking lot on the outskirts of Heusden. I gamble on arriving dry between showers at Het Gouverneurshuis. After all, it is only a walk of a few minutes.

Arriving at the Governor's Mansion (dry, I managed) I am welcomed by a friendly lady. Soon Koos Suylen arrives, with whom I have an appointment. Koos and I take a seat with a cup of coffee on one of the tables in the cozy museum café.

There are more people in the café and someone is busy hanging paintings. It turns out to be Heusden artist Mees Douglas, who may exhibit here for the next few months. Her collection consists of works of art using various techniques. The theme is "spring fever" and her colorful works are all real eye-catchers. Mees lets me know that she is delighted to be exhibiting here.

Koos tells me that there are regular exhibitions of local artists at the Governor's House. After Mees' exhibition, yet another artist gets the opportunity to show his or her works to the public. "The role of the Governor's House should be 'connecting'" says Koos. A good example is the group of 55 volunteers on which Het Gouverneurshuis runs. They selflessly dedicate themselves to create a nice 'connecting' place for the inhabitants and visitors of Heusden. Koos, himself part of the board of Het Gouverneurshuis, is mainly responsible for communication. Matters such as hospitality, the museum collection and technology he leaves to others. "Everyone has different qualities, you have to let people do what they are good at."

So, after our coffee, Koos suggests that a hostess show me around the museum. "She knows all the historical facts and figures much better than I do," he laughs. I agree and a little later I walk into the museum with hostess Harmke Scholing. Harmke shows me the permanent collection, as well as the temporary exhibitions. She knows an enormous amount about everything. Funny facts and hard facts, I find her stories all equally interesting! For example, did you know that Oud-Heusden was built on the spot where the first castles of Heusden stood? I always wondered why exactly the newer part is called 'Oud-Heusden'. What an eye-opener! Those castles probably stood there between the 7th and 9th centuries. Many centuries later the fortified town as we know it today came into being. Around 1200 the fortified town of Heusden received city rights.

In 1592, in the middle of the 80-year war (1568- 1648) the construction of The Governor's House was started, as a residence for the governor of the garrison at that time. In the 18th century, Governor Baron Johan Theodoor van Friesheim moved into the house and later a number of distinguished Heusden citizens lived there.

Het Gouverneurshuis is a beautiful complex with a stately main building and several outbuildings. The main building (until it became a museum) has always had a residential function, but the outbuildings changed function from time to time. Harmke tells me that the original stables were later converted into a coach house. Today this is the Guild Hall, an attractive room with fine acoustics. The hall lends itself to various activities and regularly serves as a movie house hall, meeting room and wedding hall.

Activities are also regularly organized in the garden, Harmke says.
The large garden is full of (fruit) trees and flowers and is surrounded by a wall, the original city wall. What a history! The whole place looks and feels very serene, there is a cozy terrace and in the middle are a few benches where you can enjoy the peace and quiet. My eye catches a work of art with hands coming out of the ground. I ask Harmke if this artwork has any particular meaning. It turns out to refer to the Town Hall disaster, which took place on the night of November 4-5, 1944. Unannounced that night, the (retreating) Germans blew up the tower of the city hall to prevent it from serving as a watchtower. The entire building collapsed and as many as 134 men, women and children who were sheltering in the basement at the time were killed. It gives me goose bumps when I think about it and I love the fact that this special work of art commemorates the victims at this spot.

Once back in the museum café I meet Koos again and thank Harmke for the tour. With Koos I talk some more. Mees, the artist, also chats with us. That 'connection' is all right; what a lovely relaxed atmosphere we have here!

Later that day I decide to go back with my mother (who happened to be in Heusden anyway) to show her the beautiful garden and to have a nice glass of wine in the cozy museum café. Unfortunately the weather is too changeable to sit outside, for a drink on the terrace we will come back soon!

Are you vacationing in North Brabant and looking for a cultural activity? Then I definitely recommend a visit to Het Gouverneurshuis. In addition to being an informative museum about the origins of Heusden, it is also a very cool, quiet, inspiring and most of all connecting place. Are you familiar with Heusden and does the bustle at Vismarkt (also nice) become too much for you? In the café or on the terrace of Het Gouverneurshuis you can catch your breath. Be sure to check the agenda because there is regularly something to do.

In short, a visit to Het Gouverneurshuis is not only a journey through Heusden's rich history, but also an encounter with local art and a moment of relaxation in a picturesque setting. With regularly changing exhibitions and a vibrant calendar of cultural events, the Governor's House offers a unique experience for tourists and locals alike. So don't miss the chance to explore this connecting and inspiring place during your stay in North Brabant.

Plan your visit today and discover the versatility of fortified Heusden!

Click here for more information about the Governor's House.

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