The opportunity to own a historical home holds considerable appeal, and we are certainly spoilt for choice on Curaçao, which offers an array of historical properties ranging in style.
Established in the mid-1600s, Willemstad’s covey of structures recall the quaint designs of Amsterdam, with exquisite 17th and 18th century Dutch colonial buildings not to be found anywhere else outside of the Netherlands.
In time, as Willemstad’s traditional styles were modified to accommodate the island’s dry and breezy climate, Caribbean accents such as verandas, porches, fretwork, and shutters were added. The color scheme was updated as well, introducing a bright, bold palette unheard of in the mother country.
Additional Dutch influences include:
• Street Layout — Willemstad’s Otrobanda district is full of narrow alleys and wider main streets, reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch provincial towns.
• Plaza — For centuries, plazas have had many functions — most notably they were used for dining, trading, festivals, and ceremonies. Today, several plazas are in use as open-air markets in Otrobanda.
• Gabled Roofline — Steep-pitched tile roofs and neck gable ends are hallmarks of classic Dutch urban architecture. These elements sit beautifully in the restored 18th-century mansions of Scharloo and Pietermaai, and in the buildings along Schottegat Harbor.
“Historical homes not only offer a glimpse into a former era, they often also boast desirable features such as lofty ceilings, larger rooms and thick walls. Many of these older homes were built in sought-after locations near to the sea or on top of a hill, making them popular investment properties today,” says Fleur Rutten, managing director of International Fine Living.
But owning a piece of history comes with certain responsibilities. “It’s important to work with an experienced agent who can advise you about the regulations and restrictions applicable to your home, and refer you to specialists experienced in historical renovations should you want to make any structural changes.”
Bear in mind that your home could also be located in a Heritage Area, which means that any building or renovations would also be subject to the requisite approvals.
What is a heritage property, or monument?
Curaçao to date boasts more than 860 protected monuments and historical and archaeological sites.
Monuments are immobile properties or mobile object which are at least fifty years old and considered of importance because of its beauty, art value, significance for science, the nation’s history or its value for the traditions and customs of the people. The owner is responsible for the proper maintenance of his or her monument.
More than 80 country estates dating from the 17th to the 19th century, quite often in a superb natural setting, dot the island. An average of one country estate in every six square kilometers of the island, this is a unique feature both for the Caribbean Region and beyond.
Together with the many colorful traditional rural houses dispersed over the island, these plantation complexes locally called landhuizen, put a distinctive mark on the cultural landscape of Curaçao.
Curaçao also boasts World Heritage, the Inner City and Harbor of Willemstad World Heritage City. The city’s Dutch colonial origin and heritage is reflected in the colorful historic buildings and in the town lay-out of the inner city’s four historic districts known as Punda (17th century), Otrobanda (18th century), Pietermaai and Scharloo (both 19th century). Each with an expression of its own, the distinct historic townscapes of Historic Willemstad’s districts turn the city itself into a colorful and lively reference book of its architectural and urban history both for the city stroller and the visitor.
Historic Willemstad accommodates 765 listed monuments, mostly historic mansions, shop houses and townhouses, but also an array of typical small popular dwellings.
Major monuments in Historic Willemstad are Fort Amsterdam, seat of the government of Curaçao, Water Fort and Rif Fort facing the Caribbean Sea and the Synagogue Mikvé Israël Emanuel, oldest synagogue in use in the western hemisphere.
Curaçao’s fortifications include several types of strongholds ranging from Historic Willemstad’s city fortifications to individual forts on strategic locations on Curaçao’s southern shore.
With a restoration permit the owner is allowed to make changes to his monument or have it restored. The restoration permit is issued by the government. The Monumentenbureau (Monuments Bureau) and the Monumenten-fonds (Monuments Fund) can assist and advise you on all matters concerning monuments.
Any structure on this list qualifies as an official monument. This means that any changes to these buildings require approvals from the relevant authorities. An object with a monument status is protected by law and must be preserved. You may not demolish a monument unless a demolition permit has been issued by the government.
“Make sure that you also know your own requirements before taking on a heritage property. Significant changes to the building could alter the distinctive historical features that made the property appealing in the first place. Also ensure that you have budgeted for any renovations you may do, as changes to historical structures – once approved by the relevant authorities – may well require specialist builders that could prove costly,” adds Rutten.
Subsidies and Incentives
To boost preservation activities, a system of subsidies and soft loans has been developed under a Multi-Year Funding Program. Implementing organization is the Curaçao Monuments Fund Foundation.
Owners of monuments, private or institutional alike, are eligible for subsidies which are granted following a standard system. The subsidy for monuments with a residential use is higher than for those with a non-residential use.
In the past ten years 180 restorations were completed, 81 restorations were financed through The Curaçao Monuments Fund.
The total expenditure for pure restoration activities amounted to some 95 million Antillean guilders, while the total investment in monuments reached 135 million, 55% funded by both governments and 45% by the private sector.
Because the bulk of monuments is privately owned, incentives provided by the government to encourage and boost preservation are indispensable.
Apart from subsidies and soft loans, tax relief measures are operational for owners of monuments. These include tax allowance for the costs of maintenance of monuments and in certain cases also exemption from import duties for building materials to be used for the restoration of monuments. Exemption from real estate transfer tax is in place since december 2016.
Rutten says that the considered restoration and preservation of a heritage building will not only make it a sound investment, but will also ensure that it remains an asset to the area.
Know where to look.
Would you like to own a piece of history? International Fine Living has extensive experience in marketing and brokering heritage objects and is considered the leading expert in this attractive category of the market. Examples of heritage properties brokered by International Fine Living include Landhuis Jan Thiel, Landhuis Bona Vista, Keizershof, Landhuis Francia, Huize Batavia, Landhuis Groot Kwartier and Landhuis Ronde Klip.
Interested in owning your own piece of history? Make sure to check out this unique listing: Landhuis Sirena.