The Most Famous House

Many true and false stories are told about the Hooghuis in Doel. Was Rubens really the owner of this magnificent baroque building or not? Let us discover the enigmatic past of the Hooghuis and its inhabitants

Portrait of Jan Brant (1635) by Peter Paul Rubens and Antoon SallaertOriginal Source: Aus der Kurfürstlichen Galerie

Current literature often states that the Hooghuis of Doel was built in 1613 as a country house for the Antwerp city clerk Jan Brant, father in law of the most famous Antwerp baroque painter, Pieter Paulus Rubens (1577-1640). Yet, this is not true.

This 'invented' story can easily be explained by the fact that the Hooghuis often got confused with the nearby Polder hall (Herenhuis) of Doel. The latter was used as a meeting place for the polder boards of Doel and Saint-Anna-Ketenis.
This important public institution gave administrative power to large landowners, such as the families Brant, Rubens and Bergeyck.
A mistake easily made.

A ferryboat for the Zuiderzee or North Sea (1642)Original Source: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

In 1645 Jan Willemsen, a protestant shipmaster from Doel, bought a piece of land south of the village.

Heerlijkheid van Kieldrecht by VinalmontGemeente Beveren

Jan Willemsen commissioned surveyor Andries de Vinalmont to draw a new house on the purchased land.

Village center of Doel (1689) by Boudewijn Speelman, based on a previous map made by land surveyor Andries de Vinalmont dated in 1668.

Tombstone of Jacobus Vergauwen (1681/1681)Original Source: Koninklijk Instituut voor Kunstpatrimonium

After the bankruptcy of the first owner Jan Willemsen, the Hooghuis came into the possession of the Vergauwen family.

In the estate of Jacobus Vergauwen, governor and baillif of Doel and registrar of Saeftinghe, who died on 15 October 1681, reference is made to the Hooghuis. The building is described as a large house with a tiled roof standing at the edge of the village.

Ferraris map (1771/1778)Original Source: Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België

A sales contract for the Hooghuis, dating the 2th of July 1708, mentions the presence of a moat, a barn, a dung heap and a 'plantagie' (garden), which can be seen here on the map of count Ferraris dating between 1771-1778.

Allegory of the Netherlands (1786/1786) by Jacobus HarrewijnGemeente Beveren

Joannes Henricus Spaenhoven (1730-1811), alderman of Kieldrecht-Doel and warden of the Doel Polder and his wife Maria Catharina Stroobant (1737-1795) were inhabitants of the Hooghuis around 1775.

Their son, Cornelius-Martinus Spaenhoven (Spanoghe), born in Doel on the 30th of May 1758, became one of the most powerful political writers of his time. Spanoghe started the first political newspaper in the Southern Netherlands (1789).

Hooghuis and church (1974)Original Source: Gemeentearchief Beveren, Eximius

The Hooghuis was only given its curent name and a semi-public function as a café in the 19th century.

Portrait of Willem De LeeGemeente Beveren

The De Lee family owned the Hooghuis from 1808 untill 1939. In the 19th century the Hooghuis was occupied by several renters and inhabitants who lived there for shorter or lounger periods of time. Costums officier Felix Opdebeek, for instance, rented one or several rooms between 1901 and 1908. Rentier Jan Baptist De Bruyn and his wife Joanna Vermeulen occupied another rental room between 1908 and 1912.

Portrait of Maria LockefeerGemeente Beveren

Shopkeeper Maria Dominica Lockefeer was married to Willem De Lee. Willem De Lee (+1939) combined the exploitation of the inn with his job als poldermessenger of Doel. This couple ran the Hooghuis as an inn and grocery shop between 1912 and 1939.

ex-voto model ship Neptunus Doel (1850/1860)Gemeente Beveren

Ex-voto ship of Doel

This two-master votive ship was offered in gratitude for the divine intervention during a tidy storm. The maquette was probably built in 1850-1860 by a Doel sailor who donated the model ship to the parish church of Doel. The ship only left the church in processions. At the beginning of the 20th century the model ship was removed to the Hooghuis where it was placed on top of a mantelpiece.

KIK-IRPA, K.0.01.jpgGemeente Beveren

The ex-voto ship as seen from the mantelpiece in one of the central rooms in the Hooghuis

Louis Duerloo, winner of the Tour de Flandres (1935)Gemeente Beveren

Last innkeeper was Louis Duerloo (from 1947 until 1950) a former professional cyclist, Belgian cycling champion 1932 and winner of the Tour of Flandres in 1935.

The Scheldt Consecration of 1994 (1994-08-07) by Albert CleirenOriginal Source: De Wase Koerier

Hooghuis Doel voorgevel voordeur portaalGemeente Beveren

Baroque doorframe of the Hooghuis. This type of doorframe in blue stone can be seen in many patrician houses in 17th-century Antwerp. The cartouche above the door mentions the year 1645.

hooghuis Doel voorgevel horizontaa_DeniseAertsGemeente Beveren

ChrisDe Stoop 01Gemeente Beveren

Journalist and author Chris De Stoop wrote a compelling story about the devastation of the polder village Doel. The work, entitled 'De Bres' (The Breach) was written in 1998-2000 during a prolongued artist-in-residence-project in the Hooghuis. De Stoop found inspiration for his novelle in the monumental but decayed Hooghuis.

Credits: Story

Alte Pinakothek München
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Bibliotheca Wasiana
Koninklijk Instituut voor het Kunstpatrimonium (KIK)
Erfgoedbibliotheek Hendrik Conscience
Chris De Stoop
Gemeentearchief Beveren
Erfgoedhuis Hof ter Welle Beveren

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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