Historic meeting creates link between Lewes, Hoorn

September 6, 2009

It seemed only fitting that the mayors of Lewes and Hoorn, the Netherlands, would exchange greetings and gifts on the steps of the one place that bonds the two cities through history, the Zwaanendael Museum in downtown Lewes.

The museum was the perfect backdrop Sunday, Aug. 30, as Lewes Mayor Jim Ford and Hoorn Mayor Onno Van Veldhuizen read proclamations cementing their friendship across the waters.

The Zwaanendael not only is modeled after Hoorn’s old town hall, it also features a statue of David Pietersz de Vries, the general administrator of the Swanendael colony, formed by the Dutch in 1631 along the banks of the Hoorn Kill River, the present-day Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

It was the Dutch, many from the City of Hoorn, who ventured into the unknown to establish the first European colony in Delaware in present-day Lewes.

The museum was opened in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European colony.

Ford, who, along with Lewes council members, presented the Hoorn mayor with a Lewes flag, said the event helps to recognize the strong friendship and bonds linking the two communities.

Ford and staff of the museum gave Van Veldhuizen a guided tour of the museum and hosted him at a reception following the brief ceremony.

Because Hoorn already has three twin, or sister, cities, the two cities are not official twin cities. “But in my heart, we are sister cities,” Van Veldhuizen said.

Van Veldhuizen said his city government has directed him to make more visits to areas Hoorn shares history with. “We need to treasure these contacts. They are part of our heritage,” he said. “These are small steps today.”

He made a stop the day before in Cape May, N.J., and returned home to Hoorn Monday, Aug. 31.

Although the cities share a common historical bond, there are some major differences between them.

Hoorn is 20 times larger than Lewes, is no longer a seaport, was chartered more than 700 years ago with a history dating back almost 2,000 years and has a large, complex city government with 33 elected officials.

Hoorn, located just north of Amsterdam with a population of 68,000, is an important market for farming products in the region. Located on the IJsselmeer, an artificial lake created through damming projects, the city is no longer a seaport. Tourism is a growing industry.

Van Veldhuizen said running the city government is a little more complicated than in Lewes because there are 33 seats on the municipal council comprising 10 political parties.

Ford said he was very impressed with Van Veldhuizen, an attorney in international law who speaks four languages. “He did his homework on Lewes,” Ford said.

Ford said Hoorn’s council was concerned in tough economic times with the expense of setting up another official sister city because of the cost of travel to the city and hosting representatives from the city.

“So we did the second -best thing, by an exchange of friendship,” Ford said.

Ford said even with a one-day visit, they were able to establish a link between the two cities’ historical societies to set up a possible exchange of items to display in museums.

“We will focus on those lower financial-impact links between both cities,” Ford said. “We will promote our mutual heritage and our ties.”

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