Visit Holland - The Netherlands


Haarlemmermeer is a municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland.

It is a polder, consisting of land reclaimed from water, and the name Haarlemmermeer means Haarlem's Lake, still referring to the body of water from which the region was reclaimed in the 19th century.

Its main town is Hoofddorp. It is one of the largest towns (pop. 70,030) in the Netherlands whose name is not used as the name of a municipality. This town, together with the rapidly growing towns of Nieuw-Vennep and Badhoevedorp, forms part of the Randstad agglomeration. The Netherlands' main international airport Schiphol is located in Haarlemmermeer.

Historic map of the Haarlemmermeer before reclamation.The original Haarlemmer Lake is said to have been mostly a peat bog, a relic of a northern arm of the Rhine which passed through the district in Roman times. In 1531 the original Haarlemmermeer had an area of 26.0 square kilometres (10.0 sq mi), and near it were three smaller lakes: the Leidsche Meer, the Spiering Meer, and the Oude Meer, with a combined area of about 31 square kilometres (12 sq mi).

The four lakes were formed into one by successive floods, with the Haarlemmermeer name being applied to the combined lake. Villages disappeared in the process. One of those villages was Vennep, after which the modern Nieuw-Vennep was named. In Dutch, the tendency for lakes to grow over time is called the waterwolf.

During the Dutch War of Independence, the waters of the Haarlemmermeer were the scene of the Battle of Haarlemmermeer, a naval engagement between a Spanish fleet and the ships of the Dutch rebels known as "Sea Beggars", who were trying to break the Siege of Haarlem.

The waterwolf could be a dangerous place during storms. It claimed a famous victim on 7 January 1629, when Frederick Henry of the Palatinate, son and heir of Frederick V, the "Winter King" drowned trying to cross it.

By 1647 the new Haarlemmermeer had an area of about 150 square kilometres (58 sq mi), which a century later had increased to over 170 square kilometres (66 sq mi).

In 1643, Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater proposed to endike and drain the lake. Similar schemes, among which those of Nicolaus Samuel Cruquius in 1742 and of Baron van Lijnden van Hemmen in 1820 are worthy of special mention, were brought forward from time to time. But it was not until a furious hurricane in November 1836 drove the waters as far as the gates of Amsterdam, and another on Christmas Day sent them in the opposite direction to submerge the streets of Leiden, that the mind of the nation was seriously turned to the matter.

On August 1, 1837, King William I appointed a royal commission of inquiry; the scheme proposed by the commission received the sanction of the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber in March 1839, and in the following May the work was begun.

First, a canal was dug around the lake, fittingly called Ringvaart (Ring Canal), to carry the water drainage and boat and ship traffic which had previously gone across the lake. This canal was 61 kilometres (38 mi) long, and 2.40 metres (7.9 ft) deep, and the excavated earth was used to build a dike from 30 to 50 metres (98 to 160 ft) wide around the lake. The area enclosed by the canal was more than 180 square kilometres (69 sq mi), and the average depth of the lake 4 metres (13 ft). As the water had no natural drainage, it was calculated that probably 1000 million tons would have to be raised by mechanical means.

All of the pumping was done by steam mills, an innovation contrasting with the historic practice of draining polders using windmills. Three Cornish beam engines were imported from Hayle: the Leeghwater, the Cruquius (the largest Watt-design reciprocal stroke steam engine ever built and now a museum), and the Lijnden. Pumping began in 1848, and the lake was dry by July 1, 1852; 800 million tons were actually discharged. At the first sale of the highest lands along the banks on 16 August 1853, about 28 per acre was paid; but the average price afterwards was less. The whole area of 170.36 square kilometres (65.78 sq mi) recovered from the waters brought in 9,400,000 forms, or about 780,000, exactly covering the cost of the enterprise; so that the actual cost to the nation was only the amount of the interest on the capital, or about 368,000.

The soil is of various kinds, loam, clay, sand, and peat. Most of it is fertile enough, though in the lower portions there are barren patches where the scanty vegetation is covered with an ochreous deposit. Mineral springs occur containing a very high percentage (3.245 grams per litre) of common salt; and in 1893 a company was formed to work them.

In 1854, the city of Leiden laid claim to the possession of the new territory, but the courts decided in favor of the nation. Haarlemmermeer became incorporated as a municipality in the province of North Holland by law on July 16, 1855. Its first mayor was M.S.P. Pabst. The first church was built in the same year and by 1877 there were seven. By 1860 its population was 7237, and 40 years later in 1900, it was 16,621.

Initially agriculture dominated in Haarlemmermeer. But with 99% of the land owned by a few wealthy land owners, poor harvests, and low commodity prices, life was very difficult for the tenant farmers. After 1900, the situation improved when commodity prices rose and most farmers owned their own land. Then greenhouse farming developed. Seasonal labourers, attracted by good pay, boosted the population by settling in the villages along the Ringvaart. Maize, seeds, cattle, butter, and cheese were the principal produce. Today, large industrial and office developments have become prominent, especially at Hoofddorp and Schiphol.

The roads which traverse the commune are bordered by pleasant-looking farmhouses built after the various styles of Holland, Friesland, and Brabant, reflecting the various origins of the farmers. Hoofddorp, Venneperdorp or Nieuw-Vennep, Abbenes, and the vicinities of the pumping stations are the spots where the population has clustered most densely.

In 1917 a military airport was built near the old fort of Schiphol. Nowadays, Schiphol Airport is the major civilian aviation hub in the Netherlands, using 15% of Haarlemmermeer's land area. In 1926, Amsterdam's municipal council took over the management of Schiphol. After Stockholm's airport, Schiphol was the second airport in Europe to have hardened runways, in 1937–1938. The name Schiphol means "ship hole". In the Dutch War of Independence there was a naval battle there.

Population centres
The municipality of Haarlemmermeer consists of the following cities, towns, villages and/or districts: Aalsmeerderbrug, Abbenes, Badhoevedorp, Beinsdorp, Boesingheliede, Buitenkaag, Burgerveen, Cruquius, De Hoek, Hoofddorp, 't Kabel, Leimuiderbrug, Lijnden, Lisserbroek, Nieuwe Meer, Nieuwebrug, Nieuw-Vennep, Oude Meer, Rijsenhout, Rozenburg, Schiphol, Schiphol-Rijk, Vijfhuizen, Weteringbrug, Zwaanshoek, Zwanenburg.

Monuments and parks
*  Stelling van Amsterdam – the old defense line of Amsterdam crosses the Haarlemmermeer. Plans are being made to make this entire defense line walkable, but currently it is not possible to cross the major highway A4 that goes through it. This park is accessible at various points for recreation, including the Haarlemmermeersebos.
*  Haarlemmermeersebos – The largest public park in Haarlemmermeer and site of the International garden show Floriade in 2002, the park includes a large lake for swimming in the summer and a 40 meter manmade hill called Spotter's Hill.
*  Museum De Cruquius – the Cruquius museum resides in one of the steam mills used to pump the Haarlemmermeer dry and is open to the public for a demonstration of the steam engine and a model of the Netherlands waterways and polders. Because the Cruquius steam engine is the largest ever built, the museum is an Anchor Point of ERIH, The European Route of Industrial Heritage. Behind the museum is a park.

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