City of Zeeland
Zeeland Township

The first settlers arrived in Zeeland in June 1847, having sailed from the Netherlands in three ships. They organized as a church congregation while in the Netherlands and were led by their spiritual leader, Dominie Cornelius Vander Meulen. The principal land owner was Jannes Vande Luyster, with Jan Steketee and Jan Wabeke as other prominent settlers. The original colony numbered four hundred fifty-seven people. Many descendants of the original settlers still live in Zeeland.

ZEELAND BRICK COMPANY. The Veneklasen brothers owned and operated the Zeeland Brick Company and created unique brick houses from 1848 to 1924. The Veneklasen expertise of making bricks began in the Netherlands where Berend J. Veneklasen was a brickmaker. In May 1847, he came to America and found work in Allegan County. In 1848, under the firm name H.J. Veneklasen, Berend and his father opened a brickyard in Groningen. In 1853, the factory was moved across the river near the Groningen Cemetary in Holland Township. At that time, one hundred thousand bricks were made by hand each year. In 1872, when the Pere Marquette Railroad was built from Grand Rapids to Chicago, the brickyard was moved to the west end of Zeeland on Chicago Drive. This move gave the firm a better location for transporting bricks to larger cities. The brickmaking era ended in 1924.

ANTHONY BAERT'S HOME, 336 EAST CENTRAL AVENUE. Mr. Baert came to Zeeland during the second wave of immigrants in 1849 and later became the postmaster. Around 1890, he built his red brick home in a Gothic Revival style.

CLASSIC VICTORIAN HOME, 42 EAST CENTRAL AVENUE. This property was sold by Jannes Vande Luyster to Johannes Van Hees in 1852, and then to the True Dutch Reformed Church in 1869. Peter Vyn purchased the property in 1871 and built a spacious home. Cornelius Van Loo, a colorful personality and former state senator, lived in the home from 1882 until 1927.

FIRST REFORMED CHURCH, CENTRAL AND CHURCH STREETS. This was the location of the original church built in 1849. The church was rebuilt in 1866 with squared cedar logs carried from the swamp south of the village. The one-half acre lot cost ninety cents.

THE BAERT HOME, 120 SOUTH CHURCH STREET. Built in 1872, this classic Victorian Gothic home was owned by Dr. Daniel Baert, who was the first physician and first village president. Arched window tops were filled with beveled glass from Paris, France, produced especially for the Baerts. The house was rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Dr. Baert and remained empty from 1904 until 1916.

THE JOHANNES VAN HAITSMA HOME, 59 SOUTH MAPLE STREET. This home was moved to Zeeland from Drenthe in 1885, when Mr. Van Haitsma was angered that the church was going to move from its site next to his farm. Bricks were removed and the frame house was moved and assembled at its present location.

THE INTERURBAN RAILROAD. The railroad served Zeeland between 1899 and 1926, running from Holland to Grand Rapids along the old M 21 route. The single cars were initially efficient and provided good service; however, they were later financially unsound and gradually disappeared. A few of the remaining train stations are being protected and restored.

SECOND REFORMED CHURCH. The Dutch were adverse to destroying a liveable home. Thus, when the church planned to build in 1904, they moved the home of Jan Huizenga located on the proposed chuch site to 39 S. Centennial Avenue. To increase the size of the Huizenga house, the home of Mrs. A DeGroot was attached to the south side.


Transcriber: Leslie Coulson
Created: 17 November 2005