Rotterdam - Encyclopedia

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ROTTERDAM, a city of Holland in the province of South Holland, on both banks of the New Maas, at the confluence of the canalized Rotte, and a junction station 14z m. by rail S.S.E. of the Hague. Steam tramways connect it with Schiedam, and with Numansdorp on the south of the island of Beierland, and there is a regular service of steamers by river and canal to Antwerp by way of the South Holland and Zeeland Islands and in every direction. The population of the city was about 20,000 in 1632; 53,212 in 1796; 105,858 in 1860; and 379,017 in 1905. Its shipping facilities have raised Rotterdam to the position of the first commercial city of Holland. By means of the New Waterway (1869-90) to the Hook of Holland it is accessible for the largest ships. The principal quay is the Boompjes ("little trees"), forming the riverfront on the north side. Although originally situated exclusively on the north or right bank of the Maas, in 1869 Rotterdam was extended to the southern shore by the acquisition of the commune of Feienoord; while in 1886 Delftshaven on the west, and in 1895 Charlois on the south-west and Kralingen on the east, were also incorporated. The river is spanned by a road bridge (1878) and a railway bridge (1877) passing from the Boompjes to the North Island, whence they are continued to the further shore by swing-bridges through which the largest ships can pass to the upper river. These bridges prove useful in breaking up the ice which forms above them in winter. On the south side of the river are numerous large docks and wharves, while the city proper on the north side consists of a labyrinth of basins and canals with tree-bordered quays.

In the centre of the town is the Beursplein, or Exchange Square, with the large general post office (1875), the "Amicitia" club, and the exchange itself (1723). Behind the exchange is the great market-place, built on vaulting over a canal, and containing a bronze statue of Erasmus, who was born in Rotterdam in 1467. The statue is the work of Hendrik de Keyser, and was erected in 1622 (the inscription being added in 1677) to replace an older one. Beyond the marketplace is the High Street, which runs along the top of the Maas Dyke. On the west of the city a pretty road planted with trees and grass plots leads from the Zoological Gardens (1857), on the north to the small park overlooking the river. In the park is a statue of the popular poet Hendrik Tollens (d. r856), a native of the city. Among the churches of Rotterdam are an English church, originally built by the 1st duke of Marlborough, whose arms may be seen with the royal arms over the entrance. The Groote Kerk, or Laurens Kerk (end of the 15th century), contains a fine brass screen (1715), a celebrated organ with nearly 5000 pipes, and the monuments of Admirals Witte de Witte (d. 1658), Kortenaer (d. 1665), and van Brakel (d. 1690), and other Dutch naval heroes. The lofty tower commands an extensive view. In the New Market adjoining is a fountain adorned with sculptures erected in 1874 to commemorate the jubilee of the restoration of Dutch independence (1813). The museums of the city comprise an ethnographical museum, the maritime museum established by the Yacht Club in 1874, and the Boyman's Museum (1867) containing pictures, drawings and engravings, as well as the town library. Of the original collection of pictures bequeathed by F. J. O. Boyman in 1847, more than half was destroyed by fire in 1864; but the collection has been enlarged since and is representative of both ancient and modern artists. Close to the museum is a statue of the statesman Gysbert Karel van Hogendorp (1762-1834), a native of the city. Among the remaining buildings must be mentioned the town hall (17th century; restored 1823), the court-house, the concert-hall of the "Harmonic" club, the record office (1900), the leeskabuiet, or subscription library and reading-rooms, and the ten-storeyed Witte Huis (1897), which is used for offices and is one of the highest private buildings on the Continent.

The industries comprise the manufacture of tobacco, cigars, margarine, rope, leather, &c., and there are breweries, distilleries and sugar refineries. The gas, electricity (1894) and waterworks (1870) are under municipal control. Shipbuilding yards extend above and below the city, one of the earliest being that of the Netherlands Steamboat Company (1825). It is, however, as a commercial rather than as a manufacturing city that Rotterdam is distinguished, its progress in this respect having been very striking. Between 1850 and 1902 the area of canals and docks in use on both sides of the river increased from 96 to over 300 acres, about £2,000,000 having been spent on the building of docks in the last quarter of the 17th century. Besides its maritime trade Rotterdam has an extensive river traffic, not only with Holland, but also with Belgium and Germany. Its overseas trade is principally with the Dutch colonies, New York, La Plata and the east and west coasts of Africa. The great harbour works on the south side of the river required to accommodate this growing trade were planned by the engineer Stieltjes (d. 1878), who has a monument on the North Island. Besides being easily accessible from the river and connected with the railways, the docks are provided with every facility for coaling and loading or discharging cargoes. The larger passenger steamers of the Rotterdamsche Lloyd to Netherlands India and of the Holland-American Steamship Company (the two principal passenger and cargo steamship companies at Rotterdam) have their berths on the south side of the river. In the centre of the river there is accommodation for over thirty vessels at the mooring buoys. The increase in the importance of Rotterdam as a port, apart from the development of the trade of the Netherlands generally, is shown by the fact that whereas in 1846 only 31% of the total trade of the country passed through the port, in 1883 the proportion was 50%; in the same year 43-75% of the total number of vessels engaged in Dutch trade used the port of Rotterdam, whereas in 1850 the proportion was only 35.77%. The average number of all vessels using the port annually during the decade1897-1906was 7228 of 11,163,624 tons, but a steady increase was recorded during this period, from 6212 ships of 8,434,032 tons in 1897 to 8570 ships of 14,572,246 tons in 1906.

Rotterdam probably owes its existence to two castles, which existed in feudal times. In 1299 John I., count of Holland, granted to the people of Rotterdam the same rights as were enjoyed by the burghers of Beverwijk, which were identical with those of Haarlem (K. Hegel, Stddte and Gilden, 1891, Bd. ii.). This privilege marks the origin of the town. In 1489 it was surprised by Francis van Brederode, and in 1572 it was plundered by the Spaniards, who were in possession for four months. It continued to increase in size, various extensions of its boundaries being made, and its trading importance is to a large extent the result of its commercial intercourse with England.

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