Veenhuizen is no organically grown village in the province of Drenthe, with a medieval village square and church, but was created on a drawing board and built according to a fixed plan with lead right areas and lanes and square-shaped asylums.
Before the arrival of General Johannes van den Bosch in 1822, Veenhuizen was a country hamlet enclosed by endless peat moors which were only opened up to a limited extent. There only is one single monument dating from that time: the farm called ‘Jachtweide’ dating from 1723. In the eighteenth century it served as an inn and it appears that Van den Bosch used to stay there sometimes. Perhaps these trips gave him the idea to establish his penal colony in Veenhuizen…
The original three gestichten (asylums) Van den Bosch established with his Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (Society of Humanitarianism) date from the years 1822 to 1825. Most of the civil servant houses date from a later period, between 1870 and 1925, when the State had acquired the colony from the Society of Humanitarianism. The First and Second Asylum were then rebuilt, the Third was demolished. Many buildings from this period were developed by father and son Metzelaar – architects with a very appropriate name, as it means ‘bricklayer’.
Lead right lines, earth lanes and characteristic monuments together form the cultural heritage of Veenhuizen. By preserving it, one also preserves the immaterial heritage of the former colony: the architecture and the landscape tell a fascinating story.