From Classic Encyclopedia 1911
HAARLEM LAKE (Dutch Harlemmer Meer), a commune of the province of North Holland, constituted by the law of the 16th of July 1855. It has an area of about 46,000 acres, and its population increased from 7237 in 1860 to 16,621 in 1900. As its name indicates, the commune was formerly a lake, which is said to have been a relic of a northern arm of the Rhine which passed through the district in the time of the Romans. In 1531 the Haarlemmer Meer had an area of 6430 acres, and in its vicinity were three smaller sheets of water - the Leidsche Meer or Leiden Lake, the Spiering Meer, and the Oude Meer or Old Lake, with a united area of about 7600 acres. The four lakes were formed into one by successive inundations, whole villages disappearing in the process, and by 1647 the new Haarlem Lake had an area of about 37,000 acres, which a century later had increased to over 42,000 acres. As early as 1643 Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater proposed to endike and drain the lake; and similar schemes, among which those of Nikolaas Samuel Cruquius in 1742 and of Baron van Lijnden van Hemmen in 1820 are worthy of special mention, were brought forward from time to time. But it was not till a furious hurricane in November 1836 drove the waters as far as the gates of Amsterdam, and another on Christmas Day sent them in the opposite direction to submerge the streets of Leiden, that the mind of the nation was seriously turned to the matter. In August 1837 the king appointed a royal commission of inquiry; the scheme proposed by the commission received the sanction of the Second Chamber in March 1839, and in the following May the work was begun. A canal was first dug round the lake for the reception of the water and the accommodation of the great traffic which had previously been carried on. This canal was 38 m. in length, 123-146 ft. wide, and 8 ft. deep, and the earth which was taken out of it was used to build a dike from 30 to 54 yds. broad containing the lake. The area enclosed by the canal was rather more than 70 sq. m., and the average depth of the lake 13 ft. 12 in., and as the water had no natural outfall it was calculated that probably woo million tons would have to be raised by mechanical means.
This amount was 20o million tons in excess of that actually discharged. Pumping by steam-engines began in 1848, and the lake was dry by the 1st of July 1852. At the first sale of the highest lands along the banks on the 16th of August 1853, about X28 per acre was paid; but the average price afterwards was less. The whole area of 42,096 acres recovered from the waters brought in 9,400,000 florins, or about £780,000, exactly covering the cost of the enterprise; so that the actual cost to the nation was only the amount of the interest on the capital, or about £368,000. The soil is of various kinds, loam, clay, sand and peat; most of it is sufficiently fertile, though in the lower portions there are barren patches where the scanty vegetation is covered with an ochreous deposit. Mineral springs occur containing a very high percentage (3.245 grams per litre) of common salt; and in 1893 a company was formed for working them. Corn, seeds, cattle, butter and cheese are the principal produce. The roads which traverse the commune are bordered by pleasant-looking farm-houses built after the various styles of Holland, Friesland or Brabant. Hoofddorp, Venneperdorp or Nieuw Vennep, Abbenes and the vicinities of the pumpingstations are the spots where the population has clustered most thickly. The first church was built in 1855; in 1877 there were seven. In 1854 the city of Leiden laid claim to the possession of the new territory, but the courts decided in favour of the nation.