The beginning

Haarlem’s history started more than a thousand years ago. The city was founded as a small settlement on the river Spaarne.
The convenient location by the river, and the old through-road brought prosperity to the town.

The city is the seat of the Earl of Holland, and in 1245 the city received the Earl William II charter. So it was thought there should be a strong wall with gates and towers to help defend the city.


The Adriaan mill is built on the reinforced substructure of the remains of the “Goê Vrouwtoren”, an ancient defense tower on the bank of the Spaarne. To defend the city against enemy attacks there were moats, walls, and towers. One could only enter or leave Haarlem through one of the city gates.

Across the Spaarne opposite this tower was another defense tower, the “Zanderstoren”. Between these two towers was a bridge. Together the towers and bridge were called the Catrijne Gate “Catrijnepoort”.

From here the northern entrance to the city via the Spaarne could be guarded. Later, through the greater firepower of new artillery weapons, the defenses around the city were insufficient hard breached, so lost their function, and were demolished.

Building the Adriaan

In 1778 the city of Haarlem gave the Amsterdam businessman Adriaan de Boois permission to build a windmill close to the center of town. He placed his industrial mill on the foundations of the old “Goê Vrouwentoren”. In this way the mill was elevated high into the air, well above the surrounding buildings, and making the wind almost unhindered and turbulence free. Here for years De Boois crushed tuff stone to produce special waterproof cement.

In 1802 De Adriaan was sold to a tobacco merchant, who used the mill until 1865 to grind tobacco into tobacco snuff. Then in 1865 both the mill owner and type of milling changed. The mill was transformed into a grain mill, and also rebuilt into a wind and steam mill. From that time only grain has been milled in “De Adriaan”.

Neighbor Olycan

Jacob Pietersz Olycan (1596-1638), was a wealthy brewer, director, and later mayor of Haarlem.
He is well known even today, as the famous Haarlem painter Frans Hals painted him several times. Among other things, he is depicted on one of the famous archer paintings of Hals.

Jacob was, like many of the other important city residents, a member of the militia, volunteers who in their free time were involved with military exercises to defend the city. They also took care of order, peace and security, for example during riots, fire, or important people visiting.

Along the banks of the Spaarne many brewers lived and worked.

Neighbor Kenau

Nearby, on the Spaarne closer to the city center, Kenau Hasselaer ran her timberyard.

During the city’s revolt against Spanish rule in 1572, Spanish troops besieged the city. The city walls, often badly damaged by the Spanish cannons, were constantly being repaired by the people of Haarlem.

Kenau was very involved in this defense, and she also delivered timber to the city council to build warships.
Despite this, after a siege lasting seven months, Haarlem surrendered and the Spaniards killed thousands of soldiers and civilians by beheading or drowning. Kenau fortunately could flee the city.

From legal documents from 1585 it showed that Kenau had never received money for the timber she delivered to the city. In court she did her name justice!


At the turn of the century electricity started to be used also for industrial purposes (not only for light). As a consequence mills powered by wind and steam became obsolete as business moved the grinding/milling process by electrical power close to or in the factories.

In 1925 the Vereniging “De Hollandsche Molen” (Association “The Dutch Windmill”) bought the Adriaan. It was the first acquisition of this association, which tries to preserve windmills and to keep them going.

On Saturday afternoon, 23 April 1932, Haarlem was in turmoil. The Adriaan was on fire! The impressive conflagration drew thousands of spectators. Looking at the photographs it is clear that the fire-fighting material available was not sufficient to save the mill, and it is also clear that one of the sail stocks was already missing as after the heavy storm in December 1930 it had been removed. Despite committed action by the Haarlem fire service little more remained of the Adriaan than a smoldering heap of stones and burnt beams. The cause of the fire was never definitively determined.


Just a day after the fire, the people of Haarlem began organizing a fundraiser to rebuild the Adriaan.

In 1963, the city of Haarlem became owner of the land on which the mill stood and also pledged to rebuild the windmill. That pledge became forgotten over time. In 1991 the Foundation Molen De Adriaan was created, with its sole objective to rebuild the mill.

The City of Haarlem was initially reluctant to cooperate in this project. However in 1996, when the rebuilding pledge was rediscovered in the city archives, Haarlem gave full support and cooperation to the project which literally put wind into the sails.

In 1999 the reconstruction of the tower, on which the mill was to be built, started as part of a bricklaying training project for young people of the SJK (Stichting Jongerenwerk Kennemerland).

The European Community contributed to the cost of the project. One third of the cost of rebuilding the mill has been contributed by our society (SMA), and the rest of the 1.3 million euros came from different sources.
After three years of building, the mill was a fact! Although quite capable of functioning as a grain mill, the Adriaan is mainly a demonstration mill and windmill museum.

On 23 April, 2002, 70 years after the fire, the rebuilt Adriaan was officially opened and since then it is unimaginable for it not to be part of the skyline of “old” Haarlem.

Remodelling of 1st floor

In order to meet requirements from couples and companies for renting the Mill as a venue for a wedding, meeting or party the first floor has been completely remodeled in 2016.

On the walls 7 panels depict the history of Haarlem and De Adriaan.

A curtain on the South side show a blownup version of a painting by Vroon about windmills on the city walls of Haarlem 300 years ago.

A double set of curtains (each 13.5 meters long and 2,75 meters high)) can be used to cover the panels creating a totally different atmosphere.
For a wedding, a couple may select the curtain with pictures of most estates around Haarlem where wealthy Amsterdam citizens would live in the summer (the smell of the canals – open sewers – were insufferable).

For an evening dinner, the host can select the curtain with ancient paintings of Haarlem including the complete Magere Compagnie of Amsterdam painted by Frans Hals (can you find him in the painting?). Visitors love making selfies.

Don’t forget to take a look at the ceiling where the clouds of a famous painting by Ruysdael are depicted.

More history in pictures