Enschede is worth discovering. Today Enschede is the urban city heart in the Eastern Netherlands and is home to 160.000 people. This is quite a difference from the 4.000 residents around the year 1860. Back then Enschede had a city canal and two gateways. The outlines of one of these gates is still visible in one of the oldest streets in the city; de Marktstraat (the Market Street). Even Enschede’s own inhabitants pass this memorial stone every day without realising that the Veltpoort was once situated on that very spot.
In the 19th century Enschede developed a thriving textile industry eventually growing into the main textile producer in the Netherlands. This caused the population to grown fivefold between 1870 and 1900!
What’s striking about Enschede is the lack of very old buildings. The city was a late bloomer in its development and stayed a relatively small town for quite some time. What adds to that are the many disasters that struck the city throughout its history. There were three city fires. The one that took place in 1862 had the most profound effect on the city. The entire city was burned to the ground, but remarkably only two people lost their lives.
During the WWII the bombs took their toll on Enschede. The Allied Forces often mistook Enschede for a German town they were supposed to bomb and unleashed their destruction on to Enschede. On top of that, the city council of Enschede quite rigorously knocked down buildings to make way for new developments. But if you look closely and know where to look, Enschede houses some real history and authenticity.
An example of a historic building is Villa van Heek on de Oude Markt (the Old Market Square) built in 1870, also known as ‘het huis met de stoep’ (the house with the steps). According to labourers these steps were build to allow the bigwigs to look down on them. The big money in Enschede was earned between 1900 and 1930. Only a few decades ago, the posh van Heek ladies enjoyed their afternoon tea in the conservatory and now everyone in Enschede can enjoy a beer there!
In the 1960’s the collapse of the textile industry took place which proved another disaster in the development of Enschede. 85% of the labour force in Enschede was working in the textile industry. Despite this enormous setback, Enschede got back on it’s feet. Just like it did after the fireworks disaster on the 13th of May 2000, where an entire neighbourhood was wiped off the map.
This resilience can be traced back to the mentality of the inhabitants of Enschede. It is a true workers city. In former times many immigrants came to this border town with nothing more than the clothes on their back, trying to find a job in poor working conditions, attempting to make a living for themselves.
With over 150 nationalities Enschede still embodies a international character in a friendly and informal atmosphere. As a newcomer, you will feel right at home.
There are a number of informative and fun websites that give a good impression of Enschede in its former days. Read more.