The early 1900s the new port
Katoenhuis Rotterdam stands in the heart of Merwe-Vierhavengebied (M4H). The history of the building is related to one of the ports and transatlantic shipping. This area has changed its name and face over the last century, while consistently keeping its undeniable energy that is representative of the of Rotterdam: hardworking, practical, and innovative.
The Merwehaven and Vierhavens, built between 1916 and 1930, were realized thanks to the initiative of a group of visionary entrepreneurs who foresaw the need for new port branches to accommodate general cargo.
With the Suez and Panama Canal reshaping shipping routes, the need for deeper ports for transoceanic ships became crucial.
Despite skepticism, the endeavor was impressive, especially considering that the new port areas were built during the years of WWI and completed despite the shortage of building materials created by the war.
In 1916, the vision came true: the number of large transoceanic vessels docking in Rotterdam increased a hundred times in a relatively short period of time.
1929 The beginning of the Van Bennekum Havensbedrijf Company
After the destruction that poured over the city of Rotterdam with the German bombardments of WWII, M4H became an example of the vitality of the reconstruction era, with the rise of large warehouses and new enterprises.
One of the new entrepreneurs who animated the area was Jan Dirk van Bennekum, a businessman active in the field of shipping services. He spent two years in South America learning about cotton and became one of the few people in the Netherlands with the knowledge and skills necessary to train workers back in his homeland about the quality control of raw cotton.
This raw material, often destined for the textile industry in Twente, was crucial in the history of Van Bennekum Havensbedrijf, a family business with high ambitions. After 21 years in business, he decided to upscale and relocate the company to Keilehaven.
1950s the birth of Katoenhuis
In 1950, Jan Dirk van Bennekum built the warehouse in the busy port of Rotterdam, named Katoenloods Van Bennekum’s Havenbedrijf, on the current address Keilestraat 9C.
The warehouse became operational in the spring of 1951 and was used to store cotton bales coming in from South America and Egypt.
Bennekum’s grandson, Jan Dirk, still remembers his first job. “Oh, all those cotton bales! They needed to be labeled and numbered manually, one by one. I was 12 or 13, and my first side job, for some pocket money, was to label cotton bales. I was the only boy, surrounded by female workers. That’s my earliest memory of Keilestraat 9C [Katoenhuis]”.
An electronic music awakening
Katoenhuis wasn’t always full of cotton throughout its history. Back in the early 2000s, a group of spatial designers, architects, musicians, and video makers started organizing electronic music events called Reactor in Katoenhuis, which was known as Warehouse 294 at the time.
The location became the birthplace of a new stage design brand founded by Marvin Berrier, Ingrid Podt and Giovanni Palumbo, Takayama Katachi Stage and Design Division B.V. The company became a big player in electronic music festivals in the Netherlands, until around 2015.
2007 - 2022
The fruit refrigeration phase