Veenhuizen, Noordenveld

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Veenhuizen
Kerk Veenhuizen.jpg
Protestant church of Veenhuizen built in 1825/1826
Coordinates: 53°1′58″N 6°23′45″E / 53.03278°N 6.39583°E / 53.03278; 6.39583
Country Netherlands
Province Drenthe
Municipality Noordenveld

Veenhuizen is a village (around 800 inhabitants) that was in the municipality (or gemeente) Norg before is was reorganized to be a part of a larger collection of municipalities including the lager village of Roden to become the municipality of Noordenveld (since 1998). The larger cities in the area are Groningen and Assen (20 to 30 km) and Amsterdam and Bremen (Germany) (around 200 km). Veenhuizen has an elevation of about 7 metres. What makes Veenhuizen special is that is started out in the early nineteenth century as a reform housing colony for the poor and homeless from the large cities (like Amsterdam and The Hague) It was, together with a town in Australia, the only colony within a country's own borders.

The history of Veenhuizen goes away back in to the late Middle Ages but only as an insignificant hamlet alongside a little stream called the "Slokkert". This was situated a little to the north of the current village. Change came when the general Johannes van den Bosch started the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (which translates into Society for Benevolence) in the 1820s. The company bought 30 km² of land to found colonies which would house and provide work for the poor from the large cities in the west of the Netherlands.

The change is still evident in the way the village was set up. It looks, when seen through Dutch eyes, almost American as it is made up of roads in a grid pattern with blocks measuring 700 by 700 metres. The difference with the United States is that most of these blocks are still filled in with farmland on which the inmates used to work.

Nationaal Gevangenismuseum[edit]

Nationaal Gevangenismuseum

The (staff) houses are concentrated around the now two remaining prison complexes. Later in the 19th century the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid went broke and the whole complex/village was taken over by the Department of Justice for use as a penal colony, of which "complex nr. 2" is in use today by the National Prison Museum. The other prison buildings that were added in 1900 are still in use today (albeit modernized several times since). The windows of the buildings have educational texts in large sculptured sills on the front, about two stories high to educate the people working in and around them. The texts used to correspond with the intended inhabitant. The headmaster's house said "knowledge is power", and the pharmacist's house said "bitter and sweet".

The whole village, including the museum and remnants of the original early 19th-century poorhouse-living project, was nominated to become a World Heritage site in 2011.

Judicial status[edit]

Veenhuizen used to be closed off to everyone but the inmates and the staff and their families lived in housing (most now newly built in the 70s, 80s and 90s) provided by the department. The village was treated as private companies grounds which also meant that (ironically) the police had no jurisdiction there, much to the liking of the moped-riding youth who were thus exempt from traffic violations.

Since 1984 the village is freely accessible for all and houses a tea-garden, a pub (for the very first time in its existence) as well as the national museum for correctional facilities [1] (link is in Dutch). The isolated history also provided the area with outstanding natural beauty and wildlife and makes for excellent bike rides.

The village is, despite its size, known throughout the Netherlands. Even national celebrities have done time there for driving while under the influence of alcohol.[citation needed] It has even been honoured by its own rendition of Johnny Cash's "San Quentin" song, in Dutch.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°2′N 6°24′E / 53.033°N 6.400°E / 53.033; 6.400