The history of Landhuis Bona Vista
From straw hut to Vriendenwijck
In 1760, Bona Vista was only a straw hut known as "Norden". When the widow of the owner Jan Koster Pieter sold it in 1787 it was already a stone building and cost 500 pesos . It is not clear whether this really was the first part of the current Landhuis (Manor House). The new owner, Esther Calvo, renamed the landhuis Buena Vista (Spanish for "beautiful view"). She did not enjoy her property for very long as the house was sold to Matthias Lulls in 1798, who gave it a new name "Vriendenwijck".
Matthias used the country house as a weekend residence because at that time the trip from the city (Punda) by horse carriage could take at least one and a half hours. He resided in the city during the week and the slaves would run the estate by themselves. During that time, maize, vegetables and fruits were grown for personal consumption. Goats were also kept for meat and milk. The estate was, and still is, located on a very rich water spring, which provided enough fresh water for cultivation and livestock (the current pool is still refreshed daily with water from this spring). Later, water became the main source of income. Fresh water was sold to the city of Punda,which only had access to brackish water. During that time, clean drinking water was scarce and expensive.
After having enjoyed "Vriendenwijck" with his friends for 11 years, Mr. Lulls sold the estate to Jewish merchant Hain Abinum de Lima in 1799. He was responsible for designing the landhuis ass it stands now. He renamed it the "Bona Vista" (Papiamentu for "beautiful view", but might also be derived from the Portuguese "Boa Vista"). At that time the landhuis had the formal entrance on the other side of the house (the side of the current swimming pool).
The kitchen (built as a detached kitchen) had already been built by Lulls in 1798 just before selling the estate to De Lima (one could wonder why he sold the house after just adding a kitchen).It wasn't until 1898 that the current covered gallery between the kitchen and the house was built. Apparently it took the owners more than 100 years to find it necessary to be able to walk between the house and kitchen with the food without getting wet during the rainy season. There is a small room next to the kitchen (now a toilet and storage space), which was used to punish disobedient slaves.
Around 1830 a major renovation was carried out. The current front of the house is added. The difference with the old part is clearly visible on the headings, the new part has a grander and curly top facade, unlike the more sober facades of the old part. Also, the coach house and horse stables were built so that Mr and Mrs could store their carriages properly.
Between 1787 and 1857 the house had a total of 17 owners. They were a very diverse group of people: Jewish and Protestant merchants, a Jewish widow and an accountant-general Anthony Beaujon. This Beaujon was the former Secretary of the Governor of Essequebo and Demerrara (nowadays British Guiana), at that time a colony of the West Indies Company. Between 1800 and 1803 he held the post of bookkeeper general on Curaçao. Rumorhas it that an amorous relationship with a beautiful slave girl led the last slave owner to leave the estate to her and their children.
The property went into decline as it was owned by heirs who did not have the means to maintain it. As the number of heirs increases, it became virtually impossible to gain consensus among the many descendants to sell the property, one of the reasons why many beautiful old buildings are still ruins on Curacao.
Landhuizen were always built on higher ground, always in sight of other Landhuizen. This allowed quick and easy communication, for example in case of an emergency. In the past, there were no less than 17 country houses visible from Bona Vista. Due to urbanization this is no longer the case, but one can still see Girouette, Groot Davelaar, Zeelandia, and Van Gelderland be it with some difficulty.
The walls of this landhuis, contrary to other landhuizen that were built of local rocks and coral stones, are made up of bricks from Zeeland (Netherlands) that served as ballast during the voyage of empty West Indian Compagnie ships from the Netherlands. The bricks were unloaded on Curaçao to make place for commercial goods for the return trip. These bricks are still visible inside and on the terraces.