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Hoorn: a historic, attractive and enterprising town

 

 

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The visitor to Hoorn will at once realize its unique character. Here is a town which cherishes its rich past, but which also marches forward into the twenty-first century. Close to Amsterdam and Schiphol, enjoying excellent accessibility and nestled alongside the picturesque Markermeer, Hoorn has every quality it needs to be an attractive place in which to live, work and play.

Founded in 1357, Hoorn rapidly grew to become a major harbour town. During Holland's 'Golden Century', Hoorn was an important home base for the Dutch East India Company and a very prosperous centre of trade. The Hoorn fleet plied the seven seas and returned laden with precious commodities. Exotic spices such as pepper, nutmeg, cloves and mace were sold at vast profits. With their skill in trade and seafaring, sons of Hoorn established the town's name far and wide. In 1616, the explorer Willem Corneliszoon Schouten braved furious storms as he rounded the southernmost tip of America. He named it Kaap Hoorn (Cape Horn) in honour of his hometown.

Hoorn's fortunes declined somewhat in the eighteenth century. The prosperous trading port became little more than a sleepy fishing village on the Zuiderzee. Following the Napoleonic occupation, there was a period during which the town gradually turned its back on the sea. It developed to become the market for the entire West Friesian agricultural region. Stallholders and shopkeepers devoted themselves to trading in dairy produce and seeds. When the railway and metalled roads came to Hoorn in the late nineteenth century, the town rapidly took its rightful place as a conveniently located and readily accessible centre in the network of towns and villages which make up the province of Noord-Holland. In 1932, the Afsluitdijk, or Great Enclosing Dyke, was completed and Hoorn was no longer a seaport.

The years after the Second World War saw a period of renewed growth. At the centre of a flourishing horticultural region, Hoorn developed an extremely varied economy. During the 1960s, Hoorn was designated an 'overflow' city to relieve pressure on the overcrowded Randstad region. Thousands of people swapped their cramped little apartments in Amsterdam for a family house with garden in one of Hoorn's modern new developments.

Hoorn has seen enormous growth during the past decades and can now boast a population of over 66,000. Construction is to continue in the years ahead, with new housing built on the fringes of the town and in the centre itself. The 'Karperkuil' development in the historic town centre demonstrates that old and new can be combined to form a harmonious yet eye-catching whole.

Hoorn is able to offer its residents - and indeed the entrie region - a wide range of amenities for education, healthcare, culture and recreation. Pupils from villages throughout West Friesland and beyond complete their secondary education in Hoorn. Some go on to college here. The Sandberg Institute, the postgraduate art and design department of Amsterdam's Rietveld Academy, is located in Hoorn - a most suitable venue given the town's rich artistic and cultural history. Hoorn is also a major commercial centre, home to countless successful businesses.

Hoorn's many historic buildings form a spectacular backdrop to the art and culture of today. There are 365 Grade I listed buildings - one for every day of the year - placing Hoorn in third place on the Netherlands' league table of historic cities (after Amsterdam and Haarlem). The many historic monuments include buildings on the two oldest public squares in the town, Roode Steen and Kerkplein. The building known as the 'Waag' on Roode Steen was built by Hendrick de Keyser in 1609 and was used as a weighhouse for cheese until the end of the nineteenth century. Opposite the Waag, one's eye is immediately drawn to the colourful lions and crests which adorn the facade of the Statencollege, built in 1632. This former town hall now houses the Museum of West Friesland, in which much of the region's cultural heritage from the 'Golden Century' is on display. Among the museum's famous visitors was the British author Aldous Huxley, who expressed his fascination for the varied collection of exhibits on show in twenty-five separate galleries.

Hoorn is able to offer a number of historic buildings for exhibitions and live events. They include a remarkable building on Kerkplein, dating from 1653. Originally built as a hospital - the St. Jansgasthuis - it was later used as a butter market and its name became Boterhal. Today, work by artists from all over the country can be seen here. The Pakhuis (‘warehouse’) located on a street called 'Onder de Boompjes', which served as a warehouse for exotic spices in the heyday of the Dutch East India Company, is nowadays an important showcase for amateur theatre productions.

The historic character of Hoorn is not confined to the town itself, or indeed to the Netherlands! In the Japanese city of Nagasaki one can visit Holland Village, which includes reproductions of sixteen Hoorn buildings including the Hoofdtoren. Built in 1632, this tower is one of Hoorn's most striking landmarks. Around the town, the defensive earthworks offer a marvellous view of the harbour with its fleet of old trading vessels, now largely used for recreation. These are the town's 'floating monuments' - typical Hoorn fishing vessels revelling in such quaint names as scows and smacks. They provide a lasting reminder of Hoorn's rich maritime history.

Hoorn is the centre of the region's trade and industry. The ready availability of highly-trained staff, the excellent accessibility and the reasonable price of land serve to attract companies from far and wide. Enterprise is in the blood of the 'Horinezen', as born and bred locals are known. That is as true today as it was in the days of the East India Company. Many small local businesses have grown to become flourishing national enterprises. The service sector is now seen as an increasingly important facet of local commerce. New companies specializing in Information and Communications Technology services for smaller businesses form a welcome addition to Hoorn's commercial activities.

Tourism forms another important source of employment and income, with the local scenery and cultural heritage forming a major attraction. Each year, Hoorn welcomes half a million visitors. In the summer, the harbours and the Markermeer tempt thousands of people to Hoorn to enjoy one of the many water sports on offer. There is a marina to rival any in the world, with the number of moorings set to rise significantly in the future.

The area around Hoorn offers many interesting trails and cycle rides, criss-crossing the fertile meadowlands. Footpaths take the rambler over the inland dikes, through picturesque villages and along the Omringdijk, which once served to protect the land from the sea. The Beemster polderlands have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here, the country houses of rich seventeenth-century Hoorn merchants can still be seen.

Yet despite its plentiful natural attractions and rich history, it is the people of Hoorn who determine its commercial and cultural character. It is they who ensure that it is also a town of the future. Please come and see for yourself - we know you will agree!

                                                  www.hoorn.nl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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