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Transients were institutionalized at Veldzicht in the early 1800s

Site a new heritage villagescape

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

OMMERSCHANS, the Netherlands – The re-education ideals of the early 1800s may have waned but the site where Dutch transients and their families were placed to be taught to become productive members of society recently was designated a heritage villagescape. A sprawling estate, Veldzicht includes dormitories, farmsteads, employee housing – from the director to estate border watchmen – a church building, a cemetery and treestands. Centuries earlier, the site had been part of a defense line.

The heritage site was one of several complexes owned by a private society of leading citizens who following Napoleon’s demise were troubled by the transients in search of shelter and employment, among them many discharged soldiers. Among the transients often were entire families who had become destitute and homeless.

A former governor of the Dutch East Indies, the wealthy General Van den Bosch spearheaded complexes in Drenthe and Overijssel but similar smaller institutions appeared in other parts of the country as well. Over the years, Ommerschans housed thousands of transients but was turned over to the government in the 1870s when private control had become unfeasible. The site had a number of usages since.

Efforts to declare Ommerschans a protected villagescape had been stalled over the objection of the rural municipality of Avereest which covers the northern part of the complex, once known as a colony. The other municipality, much older Ommen, which also depends on tourism, promoted this heritage preservation. Since then, Avereest was merged into the much larger entity Hardenberg, also more heritage conscious.

For decades, the Van den Bosch complexes have attracted family historians and genealogical researchers tracking down relatives who disappeared without a trace. Numerous non-indigenous families in the wide area descend from the transients or from employees of the institution.