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In two previous posts I discussed the beech avenue in the flower exhibiton area of the Keukenhof. In both posts I wrote that the avenue was laid out as a result of the design efforts of architects J.D. Zocher Jr. and his son L.P. Zocher. I wrote that because it is mentioned in almost every article I read in relation to that avenue. The name Zocher is used to support the decision to cut down the complete avenue and plant new trees: their idea of a complete and uniform avenue would thus be respected. 1)The official website does not mention Zocher in connection with the avenue, by the way, it is just something that pops up in the press. Much like the interview with the former director of the Keukenhof in 1999, where he stated that the Zochers designed the garden in 1830. That has been repeated many times in the press, while old and recent publications invariably place their work in the 1850s.
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Images from watwaswaar.nl, NAI and Google Earth. Analysis and overlays by HvdE.
For a photo with a path on the location of the original avenue, complete with mature beeches, click here.

After some ‘light’ research into the estates history, I am not convinced that the Zochers had anything to do with the design and planting of this avenue: it was already there. 2)The fact that they left it in place, does ofcourse not mean that the intentions of the current owners are wrong: the Zochers left the avenue intact and that could also be seen as support for the current plans.
I read several instances on the net where the beech avenue is said to date back to the time of Jacoba van Beieren (exact wording: “
een laan met beuken uit de tijd van Jacoba van Beieren“). That would make this a 600 years old avenue… Somehow -and probably unintentionally- this message is conveyed by employees of the Keukenhof, who are dressed up as maidens from the time of Jacoba van Beieren. With all good intentions a new history is created.

The Zochers worked at the Keukenhof in 1857. 3)More recent sources state 1854, but this earlier one (A.M. Hulkenberg, Keukenhof (1975), p174-175) refers to original archival documentation of the estate. I do not know why at a later stage the date 1854 was established for this design, but I tend to believe Hulkenberg in this respect. Especially when the author mentions that the second design was presented in October 1858, immediately refers to documentation and mentions planting in late 1859, early 1860. Haven’t checked his sources, but it sounds rather precise. This latter design has not been preserved, as far as I know. Although the estate had been enlarged by the purchase of Zandvliet in 1803, both parts had not been properly linked since. Zandvliet already had an early landscape design (dating back to 1772) in the part of the garden bordering on the Keukenhof -which had developed its own partial landscape garden in the early 1800s. Half a century later the architects created a plan to finally combine these parts and finally unite the whole estate .
The avenue we have been talking about lies at the northern side of the estate, on the former grounds of Zandvliet. When we look at the 1857 design it becomes clear that this part of the Keukenhof is hardly affected by the Zochers. They seem to have created a path that connects to the avenue, just like they connected the pond to the straight ditches that formed part of Zandvliet‘s layout. But that seems to be all.

The beech avenue, with its 180 year old trees (estimate by the Keukenhof), hardly played a role in the Zochers-design made 153 years ago. In this rejected design 4)They redirected the main road that divided the garden in two, into a winding path. This was not allowed, although that part of the road was property of the contemporary owner. He was bound by restrictions concerning the width of the road to which this design did not comply. A new design was made a year later. The road was still redirected, but took a different route. Consequently, the pond turned out much smaller than originally intended. The pond was enlarged in the 1950s, when the flower exhibition was set up in this part of the Keukenhof. It now somewhat resembles the rejected design., they rewired the layout of the paths and roads, and found a different connection between the Keukenhof in the south-west and the avenue in the north-eastern part of the estate. But they hardly touched the avenue, it was already there.
Whether they planted the (by then almost 30 year-old) trees, is hard to establish. If they didn’t, they must have liked the avenue as it was and connected it to their design. We also do not know whether the architect’s original assignment even stretched this far, but it does not seem they had much involvement with this part of the layout.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The official website does not mention Zocher in connection with the avenue, by the way, it is just something that pops up in the press. Much like the interview with the former director of the Keukenhof in 1999, where he stated that the Zochers designed the garden in 1830. That has been repeated many times in the press, while old and recent publications invariably place their work in the 1850s.
2. The fact that they left it in place, does ofcourse not mean that the intentions of the current owners are wrong: the Zochers left the avenue intact and that could also be seen as support for the current plans.
I read several instances on the net where the beech avenue is said to date back to the time of Jacoba van Beieren (exact wording: “
een laan met beuken uit de tijd van Jacoba van Beieren“). That would make this a 600 years old avenue… Somehow -and probably unintentionally- this message is conveyed by employees of the Keukenhof, who are dressed up as maidens from the time of Jacoba van Beieren. With all good intentions a new history is created.
3. More recent sources state 1854, but this earlier one (A.M. Hulkenberg, Keukenhof (1975), p174-175) refers to original archival documentation of the estate. I do not know why at a later stage the date 1854 was established for this design, but I tend to believe Hulkenberg in this respect. Especially when the author mentions that the second design was presented in October 1858, immediately refers to documentation and mentions planting in late 1859, early 1860. Haven’t checked his sources, but it sounds rather precise. This latter design has not been preserved, as far as I know.
4. They redirected the main road that divided the garden in two, into a winding path. This was not allowed, although that part of the road was property of the contemporary owner. He was bound by restrictions concerning the width of the road to which this design did not comply. A new design was made a year later. The road was still redirected, but took a different route. Consequently, the pond turned out much smaller than originally intended. The pond was enlarged in the 1950s, when the flower exhibition was set up in this part of the Keukenhof. It now somewhat resembles the rejected design.
Summary

Father and son Zocher are often mentioned as designers of the beech avenue at Keukenhof. An analysis of their rejected design (by lack of a preserved final one) casts some doubt on that assumption. They probably didn’t bother, or weren’t allowed to.

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