Het Nutshuis is based in a former bank building, which served as the head office of the Nutsspaarbank te ’s-Gravenhage from 1921 to 1992. The building was renovated in 1920-21 by the Hague architect Samuel de Clerq.

Until 2003, Het Nutshuis was home to the VSB bank. When this bank relocated, the owner of the premises, Fonds1818, had to decide what to do with building.

The management board of Stichting Fonds 1818 had already decided not to sell the building on Riviervismarkt 5 in 1998. This was, after all, the original heart of the foundation: the Nutsspaarbank. The building should be used in a way that would promote the basic aims of the foundation. But how? After several rounds of discussions, it was decided that the building should be renovated and hired to organisations with objectives that benefit society or socio-cultural advancement.

In 2001, Fonds 1818 commissioned the start of renovation work. Architects Braaksma and Roos drew up a renovation plan that would give the building on Riviervismarkt 5 a new lease of life.

The idea behind the renovation
It was never the intention to restore the building, which dates back to 1921, to its former glory. It was to be made suitable for use in the 21st century. However, as the renovations progressed, the modular ceiling systems and facing walls revealed beautiful, intact original details. The aim of the renovation was gradually adjusted, partly to preserve the beauty of the building that had quite literally come to light.

Innumerable fine details were wholly or partially restored during the renovation work. They include the yellow and green tiles decorating the walls on the ground floor, the pillars in the main Banking Hall and the connecting points for the vacuum cleaner system (which has itself long disappeared). Unfortunately, the prohibitive price or condition of some of the details meant that they could not be salvaged (the floors and stained glass roof, for example).

The vaults

The vaults are in the basement. Reinforced rooms containing small safes for the customers and larger safes for storing mortgage deeds and valuable documents. The counter in the basement is where customers reported before visiting their safes. Six so-called ‘coupon booths’ are located on the right of the counter. Customers went into these booths to open their safety deposit boxes and (in the ‘old days’) snip off the coupons of shares and bonds before taking them to one of the public counters upstairs to be redeemed. Before the vault could be renovated, all 10,000 safes had to be emptied by the people who hired them. The Nutsspaarbank was the bank with the most public safety deposit boxes in The Hague.

In 2001, the building had 4 vaults, 3 of which dated back to the 1970s (the vaults for mortgage deeds, valuable documents and coffers), and one dating from 1921 (the vault for safety deposit boxes). The three more recent vaults were demolished to make room for the café and the rear entrance. After a few minor renovations, the main vault dating from 1921 was preserved and now serves as a cinema. It took 3 months to demolish the vaults around the main vault. Auxiliary structures had to be built to prop up other parts of the building. Removing the vaults literally left craters in the ground: the doors alone weighed 6.5 tons each.

An extra door was fitted to the oldest vault (the old emergency exit from the mortgage deeds vault). This vault already had two doors; the entrance and the through door to the coffer vault. Some of the safes in the middle of the vault have been repositioned in the corridor, and the rest have been removed to make room for 50 seats.

The final remnants of the bank vaults can be seen under the stairs in the hall; the tiny door to the escape route from the vaults, which led to the gate allowing security vans access to the rear of the building. If anyone tried to gain access to the bank via this gate, the cashiers could escape on their hands and knees without having to open the main door to the vault. The door was fitted 2 metres from the ground to make it even more difficult for potential bank robbers.

The Hall

Nobody could have envisaged how magnificent the old Banking Hall had been in 1921 – not even the owner. The original beauty of this room only came to light when the modular ceiling system was removed and the original ceiling became visible. It had been 2.2 metres higher than the new ceiling, supported by pillars. Once this had been discovered, new plans were devised to restore the hall to its former glory.

The Banking Hall had been the main reception area for visitors until 1963, when the reception area was moved to the adjoining building. The stained glass roof of the Banking Hall (which matched the stained glass still visible above the front door), was removed and replaced with a flat roof and suspended ceilings. In 2003, the Banking Hall was given a new glass roof.

If you look carefully, you can still see some of the original details in the Banking Hall, such as the old door in the glass wall opposite the reception area. This used to be a counter. And a tiny hatch in the parapet above the reception desk was originally used to clean the glass. In fact, it still is.

Turrets restored 

The original Nutsspaarbank had a turret on the Jan Hendrikstraat side of the building. The first and second floors of the turret served as a spacious home for the live-in caretaker and his family. A residential caretaker was deemed necessary as a permanent security guard.

The tower was demolished in 1963 so that the old Nutsspaarbank could be connected with the newer offices on Jan Hendrikstraat. Braaksma and Roos’s second renovation plan suggested rebuilding the turret to restore the authentic shape of the building on the street side. The final decision was left to the commissioners, and the €1.2 million price tag did not make their job any easier.

But they agreed and the tower was finally rebuilt in limestone, sandstone and brick.

Interesting facts 

Viewed from the front, the right-hand corner of the lower ground floor of the building dates back to 1889 (the first, smaller bank premises). This is obvious from the old frames and thick walls.

Every year, any public safety deposit boxes that have not been opened for ten years are forced open. They have divulged some very strange objects, including a bottle of eau de cologne and extreme right-wing propaganda for the politician, Joop Glimmerveen.

With thanks to Hans Wetemans and his fantastic memory.