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General History of Industry

For over 175 years, Holland has served as a boat-building center in Michigan, ranking in the top 3 for the most companies of this kind in one community. From schooners that plied the Great Lakes to the powerful pleasure boats enjoyed by modern-day mariners, Holland has seen—and constructed—them all. From the beginning, in 1836, craftsmen have been the primary reason behind the area’s success with building boats of quality using locally grown lumber. Holland boat builders have adjusted to the needs of the consumer, whether it was the local produce grower or the family of four desiring to go fast in a stylish and reliable watercraft. Our community also attracted the largest manufacturer of pleasure boats in the 20th century and employed hundreds of crafts for five decades. Starting in the 1950s the Holland area also witnessed the growth of local boat builders creating large, successful companies,that have grown to be recognized as leaders in the field of boat manufacturing using wood, steel, aluminum, and fiberglass in new and innovative ways. The volatile economy and trend toward conglomerates in the pleasureboating industry during the last 30 years has worked against the development of new boat-building companies in Holland, large and small, leaving only three in operation today, building boats on order or in very small amounts for individual customers and dealers.

From Craft to Industry: The Boat Builders of Holland was an exhibition at the Holland Museum on display from June 14, 2013 through December 30, 2013. Materials for the exhibit were used from both the Joint Archives of Holland and Holland Museum.


From Craft to Industry: The Boat Builders of Holland was underwritten in part by proceeds from an endowed gift to the Holland Historical Trust from The Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation. This exhibition and related programming were made possible by the generous gifts of time, goods and services of Geoffrey Reynolds, Guest Curator; Grand Rapids Public Museum; David Scholten, Firehouse Boat Works; Land and Sea Upholstery; Holland Area Historical Society; The Joint Archives of Holland; Our Brewing Company.


Boat Builders of Holland, Chris Craft, Boating Industry in Michigan, West Michigan Boats, Lake Michigan, Lake Macatawa, Faculty Exhibits, Hope College, Joint Archives of Holland