The Hague Zoo, a souvenir from the past

Cuno van der Feltz, Curator and Co-Founder Gallerease
Cuno van der Feltz
Curator and Co-Founder
32 Articles3 Curated artworks

Could you imagine the Dutch painter Isaac Israels (1865-1934) immortalizing this lady feeding swans in the The Hague Zoo? Even if you have never been in The Hague, you’re now probably wondering where this Zoo was situated. Unfortunately, this zoo doesn’t exist anymore.

 

Feeding the Swans

Feeding the Swans by Isaac Israels

The Hague Zoo

Den Haag Zoo or 'Koninklijke Zoölogisch Botanische Tuin' was founded in 1863 and situated in the Nassaubuurt between the Benoordenhoutseweg - nowadays Zuid Hollandlaan - and Koningskade. The small zoo housed an elephant named Betsy, a camel, a lion and more exotic animals. In that time, a trip to the zoo would let people often encounter these ‘strange and exotic animals’ for the first time in their lives. At the end of the 19th century the zoo became a mondain place for the upper class of The Hague. 

Concertgebouw Den Haag Zoo

Concertgebouw or Moorish Palace at Dierentuin Den Haag

 

Although it was primarily a zoo, the former entrance building was transformed into a splendid Moorish Palace. Numerous thé dansants and parties and fairs were organised here and it could easily host 1400 visitors.

 

The Hague Zoo
The Victoria Regia greenhouse. In the background the houses of Nassau Odijckstraat.

During World War II

In 1943 the German occupiers decided to close the Zoo in order to include it in the German Defense line ‘Atlantik Wall’. The remaining animals and plants like the famous parrots (who welcomed people with a local Hague accent!) were transferred to farms near The Hague and to other Dutch zoos. 

 

Parrots at The Hague Zoo

The parrots at The Hague Zoo welcoming the visitors with a typical Hague accent

 

Destruction of the Haagse Dierentuin in 1968

After the war, the city gave no priority to restoring the zoo in its pre-war condition. 

 

The Hague Zoo Atlantik wall
Gardenhouse bunker in The Hague Zoo.

 

In 1968, the only thing remaining of the The Hague Zoo, the Moorish Palace, was destroyed and replaced by a governmental building and parking places for the civil servants!

 

The destruction of the Moorish palace at The Hague in 1968. The palace was replaced by parking places for civil servants.

 

Isaac Israels and the zoo 

Isaac Israels was the son of the well-established artist Jozef Israëls. Being a keen observer, his paintings are characterized by an artistic quality that expresses the different sentiments and moods of modern urban life during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He is considered one of the leading artists of Dutch Impressionism.

In 1923 he moved to his parental home at the Koninginnegracht 2, and became a regular visitor of the nearby zoo.