From its very beginnings, Holland, Michigan provided a refuge for those seeking religious autonomy and a more vibrant economy. Persuaded by religious oppression and economic depression, a group of 60 Dutch Calvinist men, women, and children, led by Rev. Albertus C. VanRaalte, prepared for their 47-day trip from Rotterdam to New York. VanRaalte intended to purchase land in Wisconsin, but travel delays and an early winter caused the group to layover in Detroit. After hearing about available lands in West Michigan, VanRaalte decided to scout the territory. He reached his destination on January 1, 1847 on the banks of Black Lake – today’s Lake Macatawa.
The hundreds of Dutch immigrants that followed VanRaalte expected to find their promised land, but instead found an insect-infested swamp and dense forest.
In 1850, VanRaalte donated land for an academy to prepare young men for advanced study. The next year, the Pioneer School opened on this site, and four years later the institution was renamed the Holland Academy. In 1859, the campus was enlarged to sixteen acres, and eventually evolved into Hope College.
The 1920’s brought Holland’s most enduring and famous festival – Tulip Time. In 1927, Lida Rogers, a biology teacher at Holland High School, suggested the planting of flowers as a community beautification project. In 1928, Nelis Tulip Farm imported tulip bulbs from the Netherlands and the city planted them along the street curbs and in the parks – a tradition that continues to this day.
In 1961, Holland businessman Carter Brown conceived of transplanting an authentic windmill from the Netherlands as a memorial to the city’s Dutch heritage. Prolonged negotiations with Dutch officials, and authorization of $450,000 in revenue bonds, finally resulted in permission to remove one of the ancient windmills and transport it to Holland. Its new location became known as Windmill Island, and it remains a major tourist attraction and Tulip Time venue.
For more information on Holland or to plan a visit, please visit: http://holland.org