History of Nymegen, oldest city in the Netherlands

text: Hylke Roodenburg     translation: Anna Simon     NOVIOMAGUS.NL


The Roman era

The history of Nijmegen has its beginning somewhere in the middle of the first century before Christ, when the Batavians landed on the plateau which was formed in the last-but-one Saale Ice Age, about 150.000 years ago. Around 15 BCE they founded the 'Oppidum Batavorum' - city of the Batavians - on the westernmost end of this plateau, on and around the present-day Valkhof. This place commands a wide panorama of a large part of the river area, which is important from a military point of view.
In the same period the Romans built their army encampments on the strategically elevated outwash fan-plateau about Nijmegen, primarily on the Kops Plateau and the Hunner Plateau. On the Hunner Plateau, they organised a large army camp which could accommodate about 10.000 soldiers. The 'castra', approximately 40 hectare in surface area, has a rectangular street pattern and is surrounded by an earthen rampart.
The Batavians and Romans lived relatively peacefully alongside each other until the year 69 CE, when the Batavian Revolt takes place. The Romans stamp down this revolt, chase the Batavians from the Valkhof and start the fortification of their 'castra' in 70 CE. Wooden buildings are replaced by stone ones, and the army camp is surrounded by a stone rampart and a deep moat. However, the surface area of the camp is halved and it will now only hold five to six thousand soldiers. Around the camp a village arises, where some 2500 people live. In the meantime, the Batavians who have been driven away build a new town, just to the west of the destroyed 'oppidum' - with the help of Roman soldiers. The town is built after a 'Roman' plan, with the typical checkerboard pattern.
About the year 105, Emperor Marcul Ulpius Traianus grants market rights to this still young Batavian town, which receives the name of 'Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum'. In the second half of the second century, the town is granted the full Roman town privileges, and is walled in. It is home to approximately 5000 people at that time. The town experiences a true hey-day. At the foot of the Valkhof, near the river, a new trade settlement is formed. In this way, some 10.000 to 15.000 people live on a stretch of five kilometres on the bank of the river Waal. There are good connections to cities such as Xanten and Cologne, and a bridge is built across the river Waal (at about the same location as the present railwaybridge).
The Tenth Legion has already left the 'castra' on the Huner plateau by the year 104. The army camp still houses a few smaller army units, but after 175 CE the Romans abandon the camp.
The flourishing period of Noviomagus lasts until around 200. After this, the situation deteriorates: because of disturbances within the large Empire, the guarding of the frontiers slackened, and regularly, German tribes invaded the area. Possibly also because of a rise of water level of the Waal, Noviomagus was abandoned in 270, and the citizens and Roman legionnaires retreated to the area on and surrounding the Valkhof hill, at the site of the old Oppidum Batavorum. Roman authority was reinstituted, but by 400 CE the Roman presence in these parts was a thing of the past.

The Middle Ages: Nijmegen within the city walls

After the Romans left these regions, the Frankish era commenced. Relatively little is known about the development of Nijmegen during this period, but probably the area remained thinly populated.
From the middle of the eighth century, Nijmegen - then called Numaga - is again part of a large empire: the Frankish Empire. At the end of this century, emperor Charlemagne appoints Numaga to be his northernmost place of residence, and he orders the building of a palace or 'palts' on the Valkhof hill. In 880 the palts is invaded by plundering Vikings, who burn it down when they depart a year later. The palts is rebuilt, goes up in flames in 1047 and is reconstructed. This third palts is eventually replaced by a large castle, built by order of emperor Frederic Barbarossa between 1152 and 1155.
The trade settlement Numaga arises - probably even before the year 1000 - between the present-day streets Grotestraat, Priemstraat and Nonnenstraat, to the west of the Valkhof hill and a short distance from the river Waal. In the beginning, the settlement is of little importance, but in the twelfth century there is a growing prosperity and Numaga is extended towards the river and later towards the Valkhof hill. At the foot of this hill is the landing place of the ferry-boat, which at that time still constitutes the connection with the Over-Betuwe, a region on the other side of the river Waal. 
In the 13th and 14th century, 'Nieumeghen', awarded city privileges in 1230, expands ever further towards the south. The streets Burchtstraat and Broerstraat are built upon, and where these two roads cross each other, near the Church of St. Steven on the Hundisburg, which was consecrated in 1273, the new heart of the city develops. The rich merchants settle in the Grotestraat, the street which runs between the Waalkade (river embankment), and this new centre. Behind this street, the less prosperous citizens live in a web of narrow lanes.
With the acquisition of city privileges, Nieumeghen acquires, among other things, the right to built city walls. The first earthen ramparts, which do not yet contain the Valkhof castle, are probably constructed towards the end of the thirteenth century. About a century later, a second wall is built of stone. This city wall starts at the foot of the Lindenberg and runs by way of the Hoogstraat, Oude Stadsgracht, Pauwelstraat, Oude Varkensmarkt, Doddendaal, Parkweg and Nieuwe Markt until it reaches the Waal river embankment again. Possibly, the castle is now also within the city boundaries.
Within the battlements, the city grows in an organic fashion: it is hardly controlled, if at all. Around 1450 the city is not yet crowded by far, but outside the ramparts two suburbs have emerged already: the 'Nieuwstad' (New City) towards the east and the 'Voorstad' (Suburb) towards the south of the city. The Molenstraat, Ziekerstraat, Hertogstraat and Sint-Jorisstraat are already closely filled with buildings. The need arises to involve these suburbs in the defence of the city and thus it is decided to construct an extra earthen wall. This follows the course of the present-day Derde Walstraat and Tweede Walstraat and a part of the Eerste Walstraat. At the location of the present-day Bloemerstraat there is an abrupt bend of the rampart, to connect it with the existing wall in a straight angle. In this way, most of the buildings around the city are enclosed 'safely' within the new ramparts. The Middle Ages gradually come to an end, but even after this time the city walls will undergo a great deal of tinkering.

Squeezed inside the city walls

The flourishing period of the city, which began in the 12th century, endures for a long time. Prosperity will only diminish towards the end of the 16th century, when important political and religious changes occur.
In the third decade of the 16th century, the earthen wall surrounding the two suburbs, which has already become heavily damaged by that time, is replaced by a new one. Around the city, a broad earthen rampart is constructed, which is finished off on the outside by a heavy brick wall, slanting somewhat backwards. At the same time, the bend in the city wall between the Molenpoort and the Hezelpoort is straightened out and the eldest city ramparts are largely dismantled. In the second half of the century, the line of defence is further strengthened with bastions.
During more than three centuries, Nijmegen remains squeezed inside the city walls. Around the city, a veritable lunar landscape of lunetees, bastions and fortifications arises, due to changes and improvements to the defences. The number of inhabitants meanwhile sharply rises: towards the end of the 18th century the city contains about 10.000 inhabitants, while already in 1870 23.000 citizens live on an area of less than one square kilometre. This population growth is accompanied by an immense condensation of the built-upon area of the city. Behind the majestic houses of, for example, the Grotestraat and the Molenstraat, many narrow little alleyways - called 'gasjes' - can be found where unimaginable poverty reigns. In the 19th century, several requests are made for the abolition of the fortified city, but these are repeatedly rejected by the Ministry of War, which owns the fortifications. In the opinion of The Hague, the political capital of the Netherlands, the fortress of Nijmegen is of great importance to the defence of the country. Even as late as in 1861, extra fortifications are built to make the fortress more important.
Within the city ramparts there is only room for small businesses, and therefore the city cannot profit from the first wave of industrialization. Also because of its rank as a fortress, the city can not be connected to the national railway network. Only a railway connection with the German city of Kleef is built in 1865.

Freed from the city walls

Finally, in 1874, good news arrives from The Hague. On April 18 of that year, the city is granted permission to rid itself of its hated city walls. In that same year, the city council appoints a council committee "to promote the interests of the municipality with relation to matters of Railways and Fortifications". This 'Commissie van Uitleg' (Committee of Enlargement), which consists of the aldermen H.L. Terwindt, W. Francken and city-councillor J.H. Graadt van Roggen, has to supervise the expansion of the city. The Triumvirate ('Driemanschap') - as the committee is also called - plans to turn Nijmegen into a green, spacious city, with broad boulevards, parks, villas and luxurious clubs. A city which would attract prosperous inhabitants, former colonials from the Dutch East Indies, who should be able to settle in surroundings which would make the transition from the pleasant tropics to the cold mother country bearable.

Plans for the expansion of the city

A lot needs to be done before these ideas can be accomplished. In the first place, the fortification grounds outside the city, which by this time have been handed over to the Department of Domains of the Dutch government, need to be sold to the municipality of Nijmegen. To get an idea of the costs involved, ir. F.W. van Gendt, architect with the Department of Domains, in 1877 presents a first expansion plan for the city. This plan is primarily intended to give an outline of the costs and assets which the city council could expect, and is not really meant to be executed. Even in this first plan, the future construction of a railway to Arnhem and a railway station to the west of the city are reckoned with. Expansions will mainly be located towards the south and east of the old inner city, and not behind the railway embankment.
In that same year, W.J. Brender Brandis, city engineer of Maastricht, is asked by the Committee of Expansion to make a plan for the enlargement of the city. In November 1877, Brender Brandis produces his first report, which already clearly shows a structure of broad avenues and squares. In this report he heavily criticises Van Gendt's first plan: too much attention is paid to the costs, and too little to the quality of the new city expansion. The Maastricht engineer thinks the streets and avenues in Van Gendt's plan are much too narrow, for example. Also, he remarks that a doubling of the built-up area within twelve years, which is the Committee's goal, is virtually impossible.
In the next year, Brender Brandis is again asked to prepare an expansion plan, in which this time the transaction agreed upon with the Dutch government must be the starting point. This imposes several restrictions, but in August 1878 he presents his second plan to the Committee. The Committee shows the plan to the architect-engineer L.A. Brouwer, who had previously made an expansion plan for the city of Groningen. Brouwer suggests some adjustments to the plan. For example, he changes two equivalent roads running parallel to each other into one very broad avenue (Sint Canisiussingel/Oranjesingel) and one street which is not planted (Gerard Noodtstraat/Van Broeckhuysenstraat/Van Welderenstraat). He also suggests the circular shape of the future Keizer Karelplein.
The Committee responds enthusiastically to the design, and after a few adjustments the execution of the plan can be started. The public sale of the lands bought by the municipality from the Domains is started in February 1879. 

Execution of the plans

While the expansion plan is taking shape, all city gates - except two of them - are broken down without mercy in a fury of demolition between 1876 and 1882. Only a few fragments are spared of the city walls, which have halted every development of the city in the past century, and these form a backdrop for two city parks, Kronenburgerpark and Hunnerpark, up to the present-day. The remaining defence works are demolished as well. Only streetnames such as Oranjesingel, Bottendaal (which is now the Van Oldenbarneveldtstraat) and 'Fort Kijk in de Potstraat' will keep alive the remembrance of the fortifications.




A new era for Nijmegen seems about to start. In 1879, Nijmegen is the last city in the Netherlands of over 20.000 inhabitants to be connected to the national railway network. In that year, the railway connection with Arnhem is formed. This also establishes the first continuous bridge spanning the river Waal. The railway station, which in the beginning was located at the site of the present-day 'Vereeniging', is moved to its present location. The railway line Nijmegen-'s Hertogenbosch is opened in 1881 and is followed finally two years later by the line Nijmegen-Venlo. The city has to wait until 1894 for the first full-fledged railway station.
May 1880: in the 'In de Betouwstraat' the first three houses of the city expansion are completed. It is the beginning of an explosion of building activity of a size never seen before in the city. Alongside the broad, green avenues and exit roads, expensive, majestic mansions and villas arise. However, the enlargement of the city does not progress as fast as was hoped. After two days of celebration for the completion of the demolitions in August 1886, construction works in the new neighbourhoods is halted for nearly ten years. The main cause of this is the fact that architect Brouwer (owner of large segments of the building site) is in financial trouble, and cannot fulfil the requirements laid down by the city council. Only in 1894, matters are speeded up again. Three years after Brouwer's decease in 1891 the city council acquires large segments of land, located at the site of the first cycling-track of the Netherlands. Also, towards the end of 1894, the last fortress, 'Kijk in de Pot', is demolished. The land thus falling vacant is built upon along 31 new streets. Eventually, the built-upon area of the city is tripled between 1878 and 1910.
The expectations of the city council with regard to the city expansion are fulfilled. The city, which by now has acquired a reputation of spacious, green and clean (there is hardly any industrialisation), exerts a large power of attraction on people 'from outside', especially on wealthy former colonials from the Dutch East Indies and pensioners. Nijmegen turns into a kind of 'pensionopolis'. Between 1878 and 1900 the number of inhabitants increases from 24.000 to 44.000.
The city expansion does not improve matters for everyone. In fact, the old inner city hardly changes, except for the departure of the richer inhabitants. Especially in the lower city there is great poverty. People do not have the money to move to the expensive suburbs. The construction of working class housing complexes outside the old city is only taken up in 1900. Alongside the Graafseweg and in the neighbourhoods Bottendaal and Altrade, behind the majestic mansions on the avenues, many workman's houses of poor quality are built. Factories, such as the soap factory Dobbelmann and printing-business Thieme, are located in the middle of these working class quarters and are the cause of unhealthy surroundings. 
In broad terms, it can be said that the first city expansion is completed around 1910. Inside this '19th century shell' there is a harmonious prospect of city building as well as of architecture: street profiles have been precisely determined, there is a clear green structure, but this does not result in a monotonous aspect of the street, despite the strict ordering of the design. The spaciously planned suburbs do make a sharp contrast with the still overpopulated inner city, where light and air can sometimes hardly penetrate within the houses.

Development of industry

As mentioned earlier, the first wave of industrialisation almost completely passed by Nijmegen, because there is no room in the crowded fortified city for new industrial activities. Demolition of the fortifications produces more space for industry, but the general opinion is that the making up of Nijmegen's arrears should not be coerced. Besides, the city has to live up to its new character of green and clean city. 
While some business activity develops in Bottendaal towards the end of the 19th century, most of the industries are concentrated on the west side of the railway embankment, around the 'Nieuwe Haven' (new harbour), which was dug in 1853. Only traditional, small-scale industries are established, with a few exceptions. The city hardly succeeds in attracting any important industries, and because of this, will be left behind economically for decades.

Expansions between 1910 and 1940

In 1901, the Housing Law is instituted. Among other things, this law requires cities to make expansion plans. Nijmegen's first expansion plan under the Housing Law is the plan Galgenveld from 1908. The network of streets proposed in this plan would combine well with the already existing structure of avenues. Only in the '20s and '30s this plan will be realised, in a greatly changed manner. 
During and after completion of the first city enlargement Nijmegen keeps growing and growing. The wooded area of lateral moraines to the east of Nijmegen turns out to be very popular with the most wealthy citizens in the beginning of the 20th century. Very rapidly, numerous majestic mansions appear in the neighbouring villages Beek-Ubbergen and Groesbeek. The city of Nijmegen decides to mark out the easternmost part of her territory, the Kwakkenberg, as a villa-park. In 1906 the first villa is built here and many are to follow. The city council responds to this by taking over a wooded area from the village Groesbeek in 1915. 

At the same time, the city starts expanding to the west of the railway embankment near the station. Small working-class houses are built here, many of which are still of poor quality. From 1910, this will change somewhat: in that year, the first fifteen council houses are completed on the Weurtseweg, near the industrial area - the living and working areas are still near to each other. Because of certain requirements to the houses, there is some improvement to the housing conditions of the labourers. Later, more council houses are built here and there in Nijmegen.
It is only since 1915 that Nijmegen housing societies make use of architects in the building of working-class houses. These are primarily inspired by the idea of the garden city. This idea, of British origin, is applied since 1906 in the Netherlands, mainly at neighbourhood level. A garden city or garden neighbourhood is characterised by a spacious design with lots of green, and low buildings with a rural aspect. The neighbourhood is often isolated from the rest of the city and has an independent character, which is for example expressed in a central square ('plein'). In Nijmegen in the 20s, several neighbourhoods are built with characteristics of a garden city. Surrounding the Maasplein in the Waterkwartier 314 working-class houses are built according to the garden city idea in 1920-1921. A more striking example is the Willemskwartier, the building of which is started in 1922. The garden city idea is also applied in the Spoorbuurt to the south of the Van 't Santstraat (1924) and in the Rode Dorp (Red Village, 1923-1930) - both in East Nijmegen.
Apart from these garden neighbourhoods, several other projects are realised in the years '10 and '20. In 1923, some 80 houses are built on the grounds of the demolished Waal barracks in the lower city. In the west, there are some expansions along the Wolfskuilseweg and surrounding the Nachtegaalplein, while in the east the area between Berg en Dalsweg and Tooropstraat is filled up with houses. Between 1923 and 1926, the grand Canisius hospital is built right next to the small village Sint-Anna. Meanwhile, there is a large increase of the number of inhabitants in Nijmegen: from 56.000 in 1910 to 81.000 in 1930. 
In 1920, the construction of the Maas-Waal canal is started. The digging of this canal takes more than seven years. It cuts through century-old landscape structures of polders and 'broeken' (marshes), and the village Neerbosch is divided in two. The canal, opened on October 27, 1927, is not just of importance to shipping, but will be of great import to Nijmegen as well. However, the Great Depression of the 30s is looming, and in the next few years there will hardly be any industrial development. Only the rayon spinning-mill Nyma, founded in 1929 and located on the Waalbandijk, can develop into a flourishing business in those difficult times.

City in lean times

The building of houses is slowed down, although some exit roads are increasingly urbanized. This is especially true towards the west of Nijmegen and surrounding Sint-Anna, the first village which is in danger of being swallowed up by the ever expanding city.
In 1930, engineer A. Siebers, expert in urban development, is commissioned by the city council to design a city expansion plan. This plan is presented in 1934. Its skeleton is formed by a network of exit roads and ring roads. The strict separation which Siebers introduces between areas for living, working, and recreation is striking. Alongside the Maas-Waal canal a harbour and industrial area is planned, and not far from there the new residential areas for the working class. The areas to the south and east of the city are primarily intended for the building of houses for the middle class and the well-to-do. In a way, there is thus even a separation between poor and rich. Siebers' ideas of separation of different functions in a three-dimensional way are a reflection of the opinions of the CIAM-movement, which reaches its zenith in the 1930s. Although Siebers' plan is adjusted fairly rapidly, it will be of great influence on the urban development of Nijmegen in the next decades.
In the second half of the 1930s, Nijmegen somewhat recovers from the Great Depression. However, the development of industrial businesses and employment is still stagnating. Between 1934 and 1936, the electricity generating station Gelderland (demolished by now) is built near the place where the Maas-Waal canal connects with the Waal. But the development of a harbour and industrial area alongside the Maas-Waal canal, which is already mentioned in definite plans in 1918, is still far away.
In the 1930s a few large and small projects are realised as part of unemployment relief work. The most important example of these in Nijmegen is the construction of the Goffert park (1935-1939), which houses among other things a stadium and an open-air theatre. Other examples of these relief works are the enlargement of the New Harbour (near to the Nieuwe Hezelpoort) in 1934 and the improvement of the highway Nijmegen-'s-Hertogenbosch in that same year.
In 1928, just one year before the start of the worldwide economical depression, a start is made with the construction of the controversial road bridge across the Waal. The opening of the bridge in June 1936 has great consequences for the city. The area where the south ramp of the bridge is constructed has to be completely reconstructed. Another indirect consequence is the move of most shopkeepers in the lower city to the upper city, where they are more easily accessible for (potential) customers, after the abolishment of the cable ferry. 
The attention of the city council concerning public housing is primarily focussed on urban expansions, and not really on the existing buildings. To cope with the increasing housing shortage in the second half of the 1930s, houses are built in the Waterkwartier, Hengstdal, the Hazenkamp and Hatertse Hei, and the neighbourhood Landbouwbuurt is constructed. At the same time, a small villa-park is built between the Groesbeekseweg and Driehuizerweg (presently Heyendaalseweg), and plans are developed to built upon the undeveloped part of Galgenveld.
The situation in the existing city appears to be forgotten. In 1938, a number of Nijmegen citizens, alarmed by the wretched situation in the lower city, establish the Foundation Reorganisation Old City ('Sanering Oude Stad', or SOS). The foundation stimulates the development of several redevelopment plans and in 1940, presents the 'Green Balcony-plan' to the city council. According to this plan, a large proportion of the buildings in the eastern lower city will be demolished, the differences in height in this area will be taken care of by a high quay wall and a new, clean city district will be developed. The city council is enthusiastic about the plan, and the preparations are quickly started. But the plan is put on hold after the German occupying force announces a building freeze in 1942.

Destruction and reconstruction of the inner city

On May 10, 1940, German forces invade the Netherlands and Nijmegen is one of the first cities to be captured. The Dutch Engineering Corps blows up the railway and road bridges across the Waal and the Maas-Waal canal, but otherwise the take-over of Nijmegen is relatively peaceful. The bridges across river and canal are repaired to make the city accessible again. While the number of inhabitants keeps increasing - in 1943, the 100.000th citizen of Nijmegen is born - the building of houses is further slowed down. Only in the neighbourhood Hengstdal the construction of a new residential area is started. However, in 1942 a complete building freeze is instituted. Nijmegen does not sustain much damage in the first years of the war. 'Just' a small number of houses is damaged or demolished completely, which does sometimes cost human lives.
On February 22, 1944, Nijmegen sustains a gigantic blow. American bombers drop their bombs on the city centre and on the area surrounding the railway station. This results in 800 fatal casualties and hundreds of injured people. The material damage is enormous: practically the whole of the inner city is destroyed. In September 1944, Nijmegen is freed by the allies. Again, a part of the city centre goes up in flames when German soldiers on the run raise a fire in several buildings.


The reconstruction of the city centre

As early as March 1944, the city council contacts the previously mentioned architect Siebers and engineers P. Verhagen and B. Fokkinga, to make plans for the reconstruction of the city centre. In August 1944 the first plan is completed. According to this plan, the inner city would regain the intimacy it had before the bombardment. 
Between 1945 and 1947, the Department of Urban Development, instituted by Siebers, designs three alternative plans for the redevelopment of the city centre: plan A, B and C. In plan A (September 1945), which resembles the plan presented in 1944, the area surrounding the Grote Markt is rebuilt in historicized architecture. However, an inner city of medieval character is not what is wanted. The second plan, presented in December 1945, has a much more modern lay-out. In this design a 'three-dimensional area' between Kronenburgerpark and Hertogplein is mentioned for the first time. In this area would be housed (from west to east) a spiritual centre, a amusement centre, a government centre and a business centre. The plan is heavily criticised by the citizens, among other things because it shows too little resemblance to the pre-war situation. Therefore, a third plan is developed. Plan C, presented in November 1946, more closely follows the pre-war street plan of the city centre. In this compromise, the central square developed in plan B - the present-day 'Plein 1944' - is retained.
Plan C is approved by the city council in May 1947, after a few minor readjustments. The actual reconstruction takes off slowly: only in the course of 1948 the first buildings of 'the new city centre' are completed. As from the beginning of the 1950s, the construction efforts are speeded up. On September 17, 1956, the official completion of the reconstruction is celebrated. 
The newly created heart of the city is characterised by wide(ned) combined shopping and traffic roads, which can more easily handle the traffic than the narrow streets and alleys ('gassen') in the pre-war city centre. Above all the shopping centre indeed needs to be easily accessible, for suppliers as well as for consumers. The buildings consist of closed blocks, with provisioning grounds inside them. 

Demolition in the lower city

In 1938, a tentative start had been made with the demolition of slums in the lower city, but after the war this is taken up on a larger scale. Because the lower city had sustained practically no damage, the reconstruction plans after the war hardly pay any attention to this district. But the 'Green Balcony Plan' is brought forward again. In 1953, the first part of the adapted plan is realised: the construction of a wall of eight meters high.
In 1956, B. Fokkinga presents the Five Hills Plan. This plan contains the demolition of all existing buildings in the eastern lower city, and the building of a spaciously designed residential area. Until the end of the 1960s, the city council stands by the Five Hills Plan as the starting point of the redevelopment. In practice, however, only the first phase, the demolition, is accomplished. The remaining terrain, cleared of buildings, serves as a parking lot.
In the 1960s and '70s work is started on the western part of the lower city. Although here too dozens of houses are demolished, a lot more attention is paid to the conservation of historical buildings: the most valuable buildings are renovated. This happens partly under pressure of the citizens, who increasingly realise the fact that a unique, medieval part of the city is disappearing.

Relief for the housing shortage

After the liberation of Nijmegen and the rest of the Netherlands after the second World War, the sad accounts can be prepared: 2,200 dead, 5,500 wounded and 12,000 homeless. More than 10% of buildings is totally destroyed (about 5000 buildings), more than 12% of the houses is heavily and 58% slightly damaged. Only 19% turns out to be undamaged. To relieve the enormous housing shortage, expansions on a large scale are prepared. Starting point in this is the neighbourhood idea, which is formulated by the study group Bos in 1946. A new shell of neighbourhoods will be built around pre-war Nijmegen. The standard for the size of the new neighbourhoods is taken from the parishes, which contain a maximum of 5,000 souls. Churches will be the centre of the neighbourhoods. The Wolfskuil, built in the end of the 1940s, beginning 1950s, is the oldest example of the neighbourhood idea.
The Structureplan 1951, designed by Siebers and Fokkinga, throws new light on the future developments of the city. Large-scale expansions are planned on the edge of the existing city, in the so-called radiating areas. The villages of Brakkenstein, Hatert and Neerbosch-Oost, which are still detached in 1950, in these plans become satellites, independent neighbourhoods just outside the city.
The large-scale housing construction was anyway already begun a long time before 1951. A summary: in 1950 the construction of the Kolpingbuurt (along the present-day Muntweg) commences, between 1950 and 1957 the Afrikabuurt, Bouwmeesterbuurt, and residential area 'Jerusalem' in Heseveld are constructed, on the Hazenkamp houses are built (primarily flats), Hatertse Hei is filled in with housing blocks, the construction of Grootstal is started, on the Galgenveld the Professorenbuurt is built and the Hengstdal is built completey solid starting from 1953.
In 1958, the construction is commenced of a residential area located very near to Brakkenstein, which changes this village into a suburb of Nijmegen, despite its somewhat remote location. Following then reigning ideas, flats are concentrated on the edges of the neighbourhood.
It will be clear by now that the city is greatly increased in size. Between 1950 and 1960, about 10,000 houses are built. However, the enormous increase of the population, which started after the demolition of the fortifications, continues, and thus even in the early 1960s there is still a housing shortage. In explanation: between 1950 and 1960, the population of Nijmegen increases from almost 110,000 to nearly 130,000 inhabitants. According to the prognostications, this increase will not end yet in the next few years. A prognosis made in 1958 points to an increase of the population to 164,000 inhabitants in 1974.

Industry after the war

During the reconstruction after the war, the restoration of industry is given priority. Nijmegen's industry flourishes even more in the first years after the war than that in the rest of the country. In 1948-1949, the first harbour branch along the Maas-Waal canal is dug and in the following years the first 'wet' industrial area of Nijmegen is constructed around this harbour. It is completed in 1952, and within one year all the land is sold. This induces the construction of a second harbour branch, which is completed before the end of 1953.
In the end of the 1950s, another industrial area is fitted up a little more to the south along the Maas-Waal canal, between the railway line Nijmegen-'s-Hertogenbosch and the Nieuwe Dukenburgseweg; this is Industrial estate Winkelsteeg.

University and St. Radboud Hospital

The Roman-Catholic University, founded in 1923, is heavily damaged in 1944: all university buildings - located in the inner city - are destroyed, except the auditorium. Between 1947 and 1949 a plan is designed by order of the St. Radboud foundation for the construction of a campus on the Galgenveld and on the country estate Heyendaal.
In December 1950, the construction is started of the St. Radboud Hospital and the first buildings of the medical faculty on Heyendaal. Hospital and university grow rapidly in the 1950s. In 1960, the university gets permission to build on the entire area of Heyendaal, and it is therefore decided that all faculties will be concentrated on this former country estate. Only some of the student facilities are built on the Galgenveld. Up until the beginning of the 1980s, the major part of the once wooded estate of Heyendaal is filled up with buildings.

More large-scale urban expansions

The housing shortage continues in the beginning of the 1960s. Already in 1959, a first design is made for a large-scale expansion of Hatert, then a village of 200 houses. Between 1961 and 1965 about 3,600 new houses are built, which makes Hatert the largest post-war residential area at that time. Most of the houses are single-family dwellings, flats are again located primarily on the edge of the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has a rational, rectangular network of streets which keeps repeating itself.
The next plan on the agenda is the expansion plan Neerbosch-Oost. A prerequisite for its execution is the realisation of the railway station tunnel, which ensures a good connection with the inner city for the neighbourhood. The fact is that the new neighbourhoods to the west of the city are located ever farther from that inner city. In 1964, the construction of Neerbosch-Oost is commenced. High-rise blocks occupy a major part of this neighbourhood: 45% of the approximately 2,200 houses consist of flats. Again, the network of streets is rectangular, but this time the street plan follows the original allotment of the area.


During the first half of the 1960s, the buildings of Nijmegen reach the banks of the Maas-Waal canal. Nevertheless, ever more houses are needed, because the population is still increasing. In 1963, a "structural research" predicts a population size of 183,000 in 1980 and 240,000 in 2000. The question is raised whether the canal should be crossed to build in the fields of the Hatertse Broek and the Dukenburg. Though there is a lot of free space there, it is feared that an expansion across the canal will cause unbalanced growth of the city. After all, this new city district will be located - as the crow flies - between 4 and 7 kilometres to the southwest of the inner city.
As a counterpart to Dukenburg, the city suggests building an even larger city district in the Ooijpolder, located in the northeast. This plan, which was already part of the 1951 Structureplan and which was rejected at that time, projects the construction of 17,000 houses in this area of very valuable scenic beauty. This raises a storm of protests and by 1970, when the construction of Dukenburg has already started, the plan is finally rejected. This is a bitter blow for the city council, which for future expansions appears to need to rely more and more on annexation of parts of neighbouring municipalities. Within the municipal boundaries, there is only room left in the Lindenholt.
In the development of Dukenburg the traditional neighbourhood idea is abandoned: neighbourhoods become smaller, and will only afford room for one church building. In 1966, the building is started of the first houses of the 10,000 which will eventually be constructed in Dukenburg. Contrary to what has become usual since the Second World War, the new city district is not constructed in one go. Dukenburg is built in several phases, which results in remarkable differences in the structure of the neighbourhoods. The Aldenhof is the first neighbourhood to be constructed, followed by the Meijhorst, Malvert and Lankforst. The four neighbourhoods of the 1960s still have a rectangular network of streets. Striking features of the Aldenhof and Malvert are the ring roads which open up both neighbourhoods. The Weezenhof and Tolhuis, started in 1970, have a completely different make-up. These neighbourhoods are built in a tree structure, which means that nearly all roads come to a dead end. Zwanenveld finally, built between 1973 and 1979, has a completely different structure again. This neighbourhood contains the city district centre, which quickly turns into a competitor for the old inner city.
Dukenburg as a whole has a distinct character within the city. It is a spacious district with a lot of water and green. In the urban development plan of this city district, the ideas of the previously mentioned CIAM-movement - separation of, among other things, living, working and traffic - are clearly pronounced. Apart from the fact that this city district turns in some ways into a dormitory town - because the function of work is largely lacking in the neighbourhood - Dukenburg can be qualified as a very successful city expansion. 


After the loss of the Ooijpolder as a location for housing construction in 1970, the city council relatively quickly decides to turn to the Lindenholt for expansion. Here, approximately 6,000 houses are built. In the Lindenholt a higher building density is aimed for than in Dukenburg, and not only for economical reasons. The aim is to create a true city climate, also offering room for small-scale businesses. So-called building patches are appointed, which will be built upon in separate phases.
In 1977, construction is started in the Voorstenkamp and the Gildekamp, both located in the east of the newly to be developed city district. Later, four other neighbourhoods are constructed surrounding these two neighbourhoods in De Kamp (all names ending in -kamp). De Kamp will have a relatively high density of buildings, in conformity with the aims. A little bit further on 't Acker is realised between 1980 and 1984, which consists of six neighbourhoods with a total of about 2,000 houses. The completion of Drieskensacker in the utmost northwest part of the Lindenholt turns 't Acker in the beginning of the '90s into the largest quarter of Lindenholt. In 1983, construction is started of the Hegdambroek and Wedesteinbroek in the southwest of the city district. Towards the end of the 1980s, this is followed by the construction of Leuvensbroek, while Holtgesbroek is only realised in the first half of the 1990s. 
The major part of the inhabitants of Lindenholt reside in single-family dwellings. Because there are hardly any high-rise blocks, while there is plenty of green in between the neighbourhoods of Lindenholt, the density of housing of Dukenburg is not equalled by far. Neither did the small-scale businesses get as much room as was planned, because of opposition by the housing societies.

Reconstruction of the lower city

During the approximately forty years of demolition of the lower city many centuries-old buildings are pulled down. For a long time, they are not replaced by anything except parking lots. After a discussion about the new destination of the area, which takes years, in 1972 it is decided that the lower city will remain a residential area. An important part of it will be council housing. There is hardly any room left for small-scale businesses, of which there were many before the construction of the road bridge across the Waal. 
Between 1978 and 1983 about 650 houses are built in the lower city, which has been designated a conservation area in 1975. The street plan from the time before the demolition is largely maintained.

Development of the population and demand for housing

Even before the start of the construction of Lindenholt, a remarkable development of the population occurs. In the second half of the 1960s, the vigorous growth of the population of Nijmegen is brought to an end after more than 80 years. While in 1971 the 150,000th citizen of Nijmegen is recorded, a year later a decrease in the number of inhabitants is noted, for the first time in a hundred years - apart from the decrease in population in 1944, due to the American bombardment.
However, this does not bring an end to the housing shortage. The demand for houses remains active, in part because of an increase in the number of households: the average size of families decreases, while the population remains approximately stable. Also, there is a strong increase in the demand primarily for single-family dwellings. People who are looking for space and still want to live in the city move to the quiet Dukenburg and Lindenholt. Due to the housing shortage in Nijmegen, many people flee to neighbouring municipalities such as Wijchen, Beuningen and Malden. Because there is hardly any room for expansion left in Nijmegen, the city council looks around for other opportunities to build new houses.

Nijmegen as a compact city

"Inward expansion" of the city since the 1980s

The 1980s witness the advent of the compact city idea in Nijmegen. Starting point is the fact that building upon the open areas within the city will result in a lesser need for expansions, and in restriction of traffic between the suburbs and the central city. It does not merely remain an idea: in the 1980s and '90s, several larger and smaller 'inward expansions' occur within the city. Towards the end of the '80s houses are built in Tolhuis and Hees, and on the former industrial estates along the Muntweg and the corner of Postweg-Groesbeekseweg. Between 1990 and 1992, there is a small expansion of Neerbosch-Oost, and the Emancipatiebuurt in the Jonkerbosch is built. In the middle of the '90s a villa-park is constructed near the Kops Plateau in East Nijmegen, and houses are built along the Vossendijk in Hatert and on the grounds of the former college of St. Dominicus on the Dennenstraat. Towards the end of the '90s, a new neighbourhood is built on the Weurtseweg.
A large-scale project is the construction, in the middle of the '90s, of a complete residential neighbourhood on the grounds of the former Canisius-Wilhelmina hospital, which was demolished in 1992-1993. The grounds of the former Canisius college on the Hunerberg are destined for a similar fate: they are almost completely filled in with houses in the '90s. During the second half of the '90s, sports park Grootstal is replaced by 650 more houses.
A special project is the realisation of the Brabantse Poort, located between Dukenburg and Lindenholt. Starting in 1990, the wide strip of green containing the Wijchenseweg between these districts is filled in with apartment blocks, offices and a strip of furniture retailers. With this, the spacious 'gap' between Dukenburg and Lindenholt is largely abolished.
Apart from inward expansion, there is also city renovation starting from the 1980s. In the Bottendaal, buildings from the end of the 19th century are replaced by new apartments, and in the beginning of the 1990s, a part of the buildings in the Willemskwartier to the west of the Willemsweg are demolished in favour of the construction of new houses. At this moment, the same thing is happening in the neighbourhood Rode Dorp.

Industrial estates

The flourishing development of industry in the 1950s continues in the next decade. A lot of businesses settle on the industrial estates Noord- and Oost-kanaalhaven (canal harbour areas), which are completely full by 1970. Other businesses set up on the Winkelsteeg. By the end of the 1960s, the industry, and also the settlement of new businesses, come to a standstill. It is only in the 1980s that a new surge occurs. The increasing importance of transport by road results in the construction of new business complexes along highways in the whole of the Netherlands. This is also seen in Nijmegen, where many companies settle on the industrial estate Westkanaaldijk, which was already constructed in 1975, near to the A73.
A few smaller industrial estates are constructed, for example on the Van Rosenburgweg in Dukenburg in the beginning of the 1980s, and in Kerkenbos to the south of Lindenholt starting in 1989. This last industrial estate is primarily intended for office development. 
In 1997, the construction of the industrial estate Bijsterhuizen is commenced, in the utmost west of the municipality. This again offers room for large-scale businesses.

The 'Waalsprong'

On January 1, 1995, Nijmegen has 147,561 inhabitants and 65,020 houses. There is still a great demand for houses, but a solution is near: Nijmegen will expand in the Over-Betuwe across the river Waal. On January 1, 1996, 417 hectare of land is incorporated of the neighbouring borough of Valburg, exactly one year later Bemmel parts with 234 hectare and in 1998, the city is again enlarged by 716 hectare of land - including the village of Lent, of 3,200 souls - when Elst hands over its share. Waalsprong is the name of the city district, which will arise in the Over-Betuwe between 1998 and 2020. The construction of 12,000 houses there will represent the largest urban expansion in the 2000-year-old history of the city. At the moment, the first phase for this expansion plan is being realised: the construction of Woonpark Oosterhout, destined to house about 5,000 people.
Although the expansion to the north of Nijmegen is undertaken as part of the compact city policy, the compact city idea is not obvious in a part of the plans. It is true that around the present village of Lent more than 8,000 houses will be built in high density, but some of the neighbourhoods will be located three to four kilometres from the city centre.

copyright 2004: NOVIOMAGUS.NL/Hylke Roodenburg/Henk Kersten/Anna Simon

Sources: see page "Bronvermelding".




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