1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Edam
EDAM, a town of Holland in the province of North Holland, close to the Zuider Zee, about 13 m. N.N.E. of Amsterdam by steam tramway. It is connected with the Zuider Zee by a fine canal protected by a large sea-lock (1828), and has regular steam-boat communication in various directions. Pop. (1900) 6444. The many quaint old brick houses form the chief feature of interest in the town. The façades are frequently adorned with carvings and inscriptions, one of which records the legend of the capture of a siren in 1403, who lived for some time among the people of Edam, but escaped again to the sea. The Great Church of St Nicholas, probably founded in the 14th century, was largely rebuilt after a fire in 1602, which, originating in the church, destroyed nearly the whole town. It contains some fine stained glass and carved woodwork of this period. The Little Church (15th century) was demolished in 1883, except for a portion of the nave and the old tower and steeple, from which the bells curiously project. The town hall dates from 1737, and there is a museum founded in 1895. Edam has some trade in timber, while shipbuilding, rope-spinning and salt-boiling are also carried on. It gives its name to the description of “sweet-milk cheese” (zoetemelks kaas) made throughout North Holland, which is familiar on account of its round shape and red rind.
Edam took its name and origin from the dam built on the little river Ye which joined the great Purmer lake close by. Free access to the Zuider Zee was obtained by the construction of a new dock in 1357, in which year the town also received civic rights from William V. of Bavaria, count of Holland. Owing to the danger of the extension of the Purmer and Beemster lakes, Philip II. of Spain caused a sluice to be built into the dock in 1567. In the next century Edam was a great shipbuilding centre, and nearly the whole of Admiral de Ruyter’s fleet was built here; but in the same century the harbour began to get blocked up, and the importance and industrial activity of the city slowly waned.