posted May 11, 2004

Project Documents Veneklaasen Brick Homes

The Joint Archives of Holland is making "Veneklaasen" homes the focus of its annual Oral History Project this summer, and is seeking help from the community.

"There is a good chance that if you spend much time on the roads outside of Holland that you have noticed old brick houses with distinctive brickwork patterns," said Geoffrey Reynolds, director of the Joint Archives of Holland. "These houses are often referred to as 'Veneklaasen' houses because many of them were built from materials from the Veneklaasen brickyard in Zeeland. These houses, with a unique influence of the Dutch immigrant culture, have been only sparingly researched, and a few more are knocked-down every decade."

The project seeks to document the history and architecture of the local brick houses. The archives is interested in all brick houses built before 1924 in the areas of Dutch influence in Ottawa, Allegan and Kent counties.

Reynolds noted that the Joint Archives hopes to publish a book on the subject upon completion of the research.

"This is an excellent chance to see your house in a published work," he said. "If you are the owner of a house that should be considered for this survey, the Joint Archives would appreciate your input."

The project coordinator, Michael Douma, who graduated earlier this month with majors in history and Dutch studies, would like to take photographs and notes on the architecture of the homes. Any knowledge of a particular house, or its history, would also be helpful. In addition, the project is also interested in local brick schoolhouses and brickyards.

Those interested in scheduling a time for Douma to visit their home, or interested in aiding the project in any way, should contact the Joint Archives of Holland at (616) 395-7798 or e-mail Douma at michael.douma@hope.edu.

The Oral History Project is conducted each summer by a Hope College student or recent graduate. The program was initiated in 1977 by Dr. Elton Bruins, who is now with the Van Raalte Institute, as a way of documenting the history of the Holland area.

Past topics have included polio, the Holland Police Department, parents of the Baby Boomer generation, the city's sesquicentennial, minority residents of Holland, the Holland business community, Tulip Time, Macatawa Park, the Holland Furnace Company and former mayors.