Fresh from the Netherlands, a small nation dotted with dikes, ditches,deltas and dams, the Dutch who settled here in early 1847 well knew theterrors of living next to the sea. But because they also understood theenormous importance of waterways for trade, farming and transportation, theybought acreage at the head of Lake Macatawa Bay, about 6 miles east of thepoint where the bay joins Lake Michigan.
Fleeing religious persecution in their homeland, the 60 emigrants came towestern Michigan with their leader Albertus Christian Van Raalte, a Protestantminister who earlier had scouted the swampy, mosquito-rich territory with sixcompatriots. To their dismay, the newcomers soon learned access to their GreatLakes lifeline was blocked by a sandbar, so they hand-dug a channel. Hundredsof men, women and children who arrived from the old country during the nextfew months rolled up their sleeves and pitched in.
The story of how these industrious, God-fearing pioneers and their heirspersevered during hard times to secure a respected place in American societyis told today by the Holland Museum and the nearby Cappon House Museum throughcollections of farm implements, home furnishings, church-related items,clothing and other artifacts. Visitors also will find records of additionalchannel construction, for which the state helped pay, that eventually broughtships bearing tourists and goods to the scene, as well as photos anddescriptions of Holland's Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of a devastatingfire that struck on Oct. 8, 1871, the day of the Great Chicago Fire andanother that enveloped Peshtigo, Wis., claiming 1,200 lives.
The Holland Museum began as the Netherlands Museum, established in 1937 andhoused in a building provided by the city. The initial collection boasted 19thCentury Dutch materials related to the town's original settlers. With publicsupport and that of the Netherlands government, it gradually acquired largenumbers of Dutch-related items both here and abroad.
Following an extensive fundraising campaign, the city bought the old,18,000-square-foot U.S. Post Office and remodeled it to showcase the area'scultural, social, economic, religious and maritime heritage. Renamed theHolland Museum, the agency moved to these quarters eight years ago. Delft,dollhouses and decorative arts are among the treasures on display,highlighting immigrants and industry, faith and fire, ships and sand dunes.
Cappon House, the other Dutch treat, is an Italianate-style mansion builtin 1874 at a cost of $10,000 by Isaac Cappon, who arrived from the Netherlandsin 1848 at the age of 18. Elected the city's first mayor, he established theCappon & Bertsch Leather Co. with his partner, John Bertsch, earning a fortunethrough U.S. Government Civil War contracts.
The city bought the house in 1978 for use as a museum; Lavina, one ofCappon's 16 children, willed the city the contents, which represent about 80percent of the original furnishings. Filled with patterns of the past, thehouse echoes the daily life of a prominent Victorian-era family.
Operating under the umbrella of the Holland Historical Trust founded in1986, both museums are listed on the Michigan State and National Registers ofHistoric Places.
The Holland Museum is open daily during Tulip Time (May 11-21, 2000);otherwise closed Tuesdays and major holidays (New Year's Day, Easter, MemorialDay, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas). Regular hours: 10a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday;2-5 p.m. Sunday. Tulip Time hours: noon-5 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. otherdays. Admission: $3 adults, $2.25 seniors/students, $7 family; combo ticketwith Cappon House, $4 individual, $8 family. Accessibility: Wheelchairaccessible. Miles from downtown Chicago: 152. Address: 31 W. 10th St.,Holland, MI 49423. Phone: 888-200-9123.
The Cappon House Museum is open the first Saturday of the month fromNovember through May; open Wednesday through Saturday from May throughOctober; open daily during Tulip Time. Regular hours: 1-4 p.m. Tulip Timehours: noon-5 p.m. Sunday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. other days. Admission: $2, $5 family;combo ticket with Holland Museum, $4 individual, $8 family. Accessibility: Notwheelchair accessible. Address: 228 W. 9th St., Holland, MI 49423. Phone:616-392-6740.
Area information: Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-506-1299.