Renovated Villa Tokara receives its first guests

POSTED: 01/3/13 3:43 PM

WILLEMSTAD, Curacao — Following the recent downpours, the media paid much attention to dilapidated buildings on the list of protected monuments that are neglected by their owners. The renovation of a monument to its original condition is an expensive affair. However, there are also success stories. Villa Tokara, the claret-colored monument in its entire splendor on Penstraat opposite the Avila Hotel, recently welcomed its first guests.

The building now functions as a ‘boutique inn’ and will also be occupied by the owners, the couple Willy Eissens and Trudy Brunsveld. “In 2010 we spent a romantic holiday on Curaçao and had stayed at the Avila Hotel. The dilapidated building attracted our attention and we immediately made contact with the real estate agent. It appeared that the building was up for sale for two years already. In Europe we had been looking for a beautiful building that we could transform into an inn. We accidentally ended up on Curaçao where the favorable weather throughout the year was the deciding factor. For that matter, we had already visited Curaçao fifteen years ago, when walking down Penstraat at the time and seeing the many dilapidated monumental buildings, we said “These buildings should be renovated.”

For almost twenty years the couple is the owner/manager of a successful running beach restaurant in Scheveningen, which is now being run by two partners so the couple can focus on the inn. Eissens is an electrician by profession and is quite handy when it comes to construction work. From the Netherlands the couple shipped tiles – there were no floors in the entire building – along with roofing tiles and furniture. The many boxes were therefore stacked in the huge lounge room when tropical storm Tomas hit the island. That room flooded up to one meter. The considerable damage hampered the work. “We faced setbacks in the past two years but on the other hand some matters have gone smoothly”, the couple says. A pump system was installed behind the back patio for drainage.

Dog Sjaakie roams the entire premises in search of lizards, not missing any corner behind the huge swimming pool. “Well, we also had unforeseen setbacks with the swimming pool. With the leveling the area appeared to contain brackish soil, which eventually delayed the work – estimated to take six weeks – with six months”, said Eissens with a smile, who is still surprised when looking back. He emphasizes they continuously strived to restore the monument in its original glory, whereby only the swimming pool deviates from the entire image of the past.

The couple has two black-and-white pictures from the fifties and explained that the building used to be a children annex relief center for girls – named Casa Manita – and subsequently a party house for youth movement Hubentut Setenta.

“It’s so nice to receive more and more information on the building’s history. For instance, a woman dropped by, who lived in the orphanage as a young girl and shared her memories with us. Another woman, who came to see it after the renovation, became very emotional because her father had been closely involved with the youth movement and his office had been on the top floor. At the time her father strived to restore the building to its former splendor but eventually he was unable to arrange the financing. She was emotional because an ardent wish of her deceased father had finally been fulfilled. We were very touched by this,” Eissens and Brunsveld says.

Entirely according to the pictures, the two huge pillars, at the ‘stately’ entrance of the premises, were included in the surrounding wall work, the terrace was reconstructed in wood on the second floor, the stairway to the second floor was restored in the original mahogany and the roofs (missing at the time) were modeled to the original state of the outbuildings. “At the front, near the swimming pool, we chose to put up a canvas offering shade. We understood that one of the requirements for monuments is not hiding them from passers-by. The renovated monuments must be clearly visible, which of course is understandable”, Brunsveld says.

The couple also did its utmost in brightening up the street in their neighborhood. For instance, on December 22nd together with Fundashon Nieuw Nederland Nobo, Eissen and six men cleared the adjacent property on Helenastraat that was entirely overgrown. “We even found computers and all kinds of technical equipment, probably stolen goods, which we threw away. Eventually we hope to keep the neighborhood clean and attractive,” Eissens says.

In the kitchen – housed in a separate building in the courtyard – Eissens pointed to the tiles he used. “When the people from the Historic Buildings Council came to document everything I saw a girl taking pictures of the tiles. She explained that the original features of the building must be preserved. This was of course a compliment considering there had been no floors and the tiles were new but looked old. The tiles were hand-made in Morocco and I laid them myself.”

The inn now has three rooms, fitted with all modern conveniences, of which one room is made for a family of four. The family room has access to a private patio with a functional sitting area. The parlor is a communal area with a mini-bar where guests can lounge and internet. The couple serves breakfast upon request. The second floor, which is not ready yet, will house the couple. The extent of the work already done is clearly visible on this floor. The huge space misses a floor and looks dilapidated. “We want to create rooms by putting up walls. The top part of these walls will consist of thick glass to the ceiling so that people can still see the original size of the space”, said Brunsveld. The elegant interior with mostly antique furniture – mainly from Asia – and the hand-made tiles from Morocco give a pleasant authentic atmosphere in keeping with a ‘boutique inn’. Visit www.villatokara.com for more information and pictures.

 

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