Illustrious Des Indes
From city palace to legendary hotel
The city palace of Baron van Brienen
Baron van Brienen, who was a counselor to King William III, had a town palace built in 1858 on the posh Lange Voorhout avenue. He chose this location because, besides his Clingendael estate, he also wanted a stately accommodation in downtown The Hague to be able to host parties. So there was no excuse for a lack of a magnificent ballroom. In addition to this, the building hosts the spacious inner courtyard for the horse-drawn carriages, stables and a number of luxurious private chambers and guest rooms. Unhindered by any form of modesty the baron had his initial 'B' inscribed on all the gilded doorknobs of each chamber. These doorknobs can still be admired to this present day on the doors of the entryway to the Van Brienen Salon. An interesting detail is a little hole in the top, which can accommodate a white or red feather. White signified entry was allowed, but if there was a red feather stuck in the doorknob the baron really did not want to be disturbed.
A few years after the baron passed away the building was sold, and after a renovation that lasted four years, it was dedicated as a hotel. The 1880 announcement heralded: 'This first-grade hotel is the largest in the residency and has been newly furnished according to the standards of this current time.'
Des Indes Hotel soon made its mark as a progressive and innovative hotel. Each floor had a bathroom and a few years later even each room was outfitted with a bathroom, offering hot and cold running water. There was even a kind of intercom system that guests could use to call reception from their rooms. All amenities that represented a type of luxury that was unprecedented at that time.
At its opening in 1881 by Prince Frederic of Orange, the building was named Des Indes, after the hotel that carried the same name in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies. The coat of arms of Batavia is still displayed in the triangular decoration on the facade of Des Indes Hotel and on the canopy over the entranceway. Back in the day, Des Indes Hotel was the stage for exclusive galas and banquets. The guests soon flocked to personally bear witness to this pinnacle of elegance and grandeur of The Hague. After Tsar Nicolas II proposed to host a peace conference in the Hague in 1899, a new audience of leaders of state, governors, and diplomats found their way to the residential hotel. One of them was Paul Kruger, president of the Republic of South Africa and leader of the peasant rebellion known as the Boer War.
The influence of two world wars
In 1914 an economically successful period was ended by the First World War. It took an intervention by the Dutch government in 1918 to warrant the survival of Des Indes Hotel. The State Property Department purchased the hotel to offer negotiators first-class lodging while they were involved in peace talks at the nearby Peace Palace. This way Des Indes Hotel was able to continue its role as a prominent hotel.
In 1931 a short circuit in the wiring of the festive illumination caused a fire. In honor of the 73rd birthday of Queen Mother Emma, they had suspended a life-size letter 'E' with a crown on top of it in Des Indes Hotel, which caught fire. The reconstruction works were seized as an opportunity to add an extra floor to the hotel at that same time.
During the Second World War, Des Indes Hotel served as headquarters for the German occupiers. What the Germans didn't know was that Henri Rey, the manager of the hotel and also an avid pigeon fancier who escaped to England, had had a pigeon house placed on the roof years ago. This turned out to be the perfect refuge for Jewish people in hiding, who managed to survive by the cold-blooded actions of the hotel management and also by eating the prize-winning pigeons. Straight after the war, the Allies moved into the hotel and heads of state and generals such as Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, and Bernard Montgomery took up residence in Des Indes.
When Des Indes Hotel is threatened with closure in the early '70s, the government decides to sell the hotel to a private investor, who takes up the challenge to turn Des Indes Hotel into a profitable business again.
Due to the unique location in the political center of The Hague and the stature of The Hague as the city of justice and peace, Des Indes Hotel remains a much-loved location to meet for national and international politicians. In the late '70s, this is the location for the Des Indes debate. A series of secret meetings between the political parties VVD, PvdA, and D66, which ultimately would lead to the first purple (social-liberal coalition) cabinet. In the following years, Des Indes Hotel has been part of a number of international hotel chains, which each had their own style as far as the exploitation of this historic hotel was concerned.
There is no other hotel with quite the impressive list of famous visitors such as Des Indes Hotel. The guestbook contains the illustrious names of kings, emperors, maharaja's, presidents, generals, composers, Nobel Prize winners, artists and spiritual leaders such as the Dalai Lama.
Queen Juliana welcomed the Thai king in Des Indes Hotel during a state visit and also celebrated her engagement to Prince Bernhard here. The magical sounds of the pianist Arthur Rubenstein once filled the Des Indes Lounge, and the most famous ballet dancer of all time drew her final breath here. The train transporting Anna Pavlova from Paris to The Hague was involved in an accident. Anna remained unharmed but unfortunately contracted double pneumonia during that long cold night while helping out her fellow passengers.
The spy Mata Hari also made her appearance in Des Indes Hotel, as well as celebrities from the realm of cinema and music, such as Josephine Baker and Maurice Chevalier. The arrival of Mick Jagger, the singer of the Rolling Stones, caused a mob of hysterical fans in front of the entryway of the hotel, because they wanted to catch a glimpse of their idol. The legendary pop artists Prince and Michael Jackson naturally also chose Des Indes as their residence during their stay in The Hague.
Des Indes in de 21st century
In 2005 the hotel temporarily closed down for a radical and expensive renovation, expertly overseen by the French interior decoration architect Jacques Garcia. His style can best be described as classic with modern details. Garcia restored the hotel to its former glory with concern for the historical character and preserving the many authentic details. The white facade is given a warm yellow color at this occasion.
To involve the citizens of The Hague in the refurbishment of 'their' Des Indes Hotel and to add a Dutch tone to the backdrop, Garcia has a number of painters from The Hague apply tulips to the walls of the hallways on the 3rd floor. To finish it all off the room numbers are placed on blue-white tulip vases with gold paint. The spectacular metamorphosis of Des Indes Hotel was quickly crowned with success and very soon a growing group of curious world travelers discovers this iconic hotel.
The Leading Hotels of the World
In December of 2018 Des Indes Hotel has joined the ranks of a select number of four hundred hotels in eighty countries, which are united in The Leading Hotels of the World. This prestigious group of independent hotels is selected, not by what they have in common, but more so on the extraordinary details that distinguish them from each other. All hotels are uniquely situated, have distinctive architecture, stunning design and an exceptionally high standard of service, luxury and comfort. They represent the cultural essence of their destination and embody the atmosphere of the town that they are located in.
Des Indes Hotel is proud to be a part of this prestigious collection of premium hotels.