All About Holland 2023

Up until a few centuries ago , Michigan was inhabited solely by Native American tribes. When French fur traders arrived in the early 1600’s, the people they first encountered were likely members of the Ottawa nation, whose Indian name means “traders.” Over two hundred years later, an Ottawa leader, Chief Joseph Wakazoo, scouted a location for a colony. His tribe settled on the shores of the Black River, just a few miles f rom what is today Holland, Michigan. In 1846, another group began their journey to the area, this time f rom the Netherlands. Dreaming of a life without the financial depression and religious oppression of his homeland, the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte persuaded a small band of men, women, and children to board the sailing brig, “Southerner,” and embark on a 47-day voyage across the Atlantic. Through hard work and resilience, the Dutch built the “Holland Kolonie." Within a half dozen years, a few hotels, an assortment of shops, and burgeoning industry lay in the midst of the wilderness. By the early 1860’s, Holland was an agricultural port and had an institution of higher learning that would become Hope College. In the early 1870’s, two railroad spurs further stimulated economic development. One ill-fated spark, however, almost wiped out the bustling town on October 9, 1871 (the same date as the Great Chicago Fire). Even though nearly everything burned, the community demonstrated its resolve, and Holland rose f rom the ashes, stronger than ever.

20th century Holland was a thriving industrial district known for its furniture manufacturers and for the Holland Furnace Company, the H.J. Heinz Company, and the Chris Craft Corporation. During the 1920’s, “Tulip Time” was born and would become one of the nation's most celebrated flower festivals. Because of its inviting lakeside location, Holland also became a favored destination for vacationers f rom Chicago and St. Louis, spurring the construction of ornate resort hotels and family cottages. As late as the 1950’s, 90% of Holland residents still claimed Dutch heritage. The town, however, already had begun its evolution to a community rich with many cultures. The decade before, the first Hispanic migrant farm workers arrived to take jobs in fields and food processing plants, many staying permanently due to year round work and educational opportunities. Later, following the Vietnam War, Asian refugees traveled halfway around the world to make Holland their new home. Like the immigrants before them, these groups came in search of a better life and also added to the multifaceted fabric of our community. 2023 Holland is an increasingly diverse city which welcomes new residents f rom across the globe. Today’s immigrants come because they know Holland is a place to raise a healthy family, enjoy a vibrant retirement, and find a meaningful community. Sprinkle in a dynamic economy, a volunteering spirit, and abundant arts and educational offerings, and you describe a modern-day settlement far beyond the wildest dreams of the Dutch visionaries who gave “Holland” its name.

All photos courtesy of Holland Museum



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