Hilversum is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland. Located in the region called "'t Gooi", it is the largest town in that area. It is surrounded by heathland, woods, meadows, lakes, and smaller villages. Hilversum is part of the Randstad, one of the largest conurbations in Europe.
Earthenware found in Hilversum gives its name to the Hilversum culture, which is an early- to mid-Bronze Age, or 800–1200 BCE material culture. Artifacts from this prehistoric civilization bear similarities to the Wessex Culture of southern Britain and may indicate that the first Hilversum residents emigrated from that area. The first brick settlements formed around 900, but it was not until 1305 that the first official mention of Hilversum ("Hilfersheem" from "Hilvertshem" meaning "houses between the hills") is found. At that point it was a part of Naarden, the oldest town in the Gooi area.
Farming, raising sheep and some wool manufacturing were the means of life for the Gooi in the Middle Ages. In 21 March at 6:30 am (The hour at which people got up, as the farm was full of loud and restless animals) 1424, Hilversum received its first official independent status. This made possible further growth in the village because permission from Naarden was no longer needed for new industrial development. The town grew further in the 17th century when the Dutch economy as a whole entered its age of prosperity, and several canals were built connecting it indirectly to Amsterdam. In 1725 and 1766 large fires destroyed most of the town, leveling parts of the old townhouse and the church next to it. The town overcame these setbacks and the textile industry continued to develop, among other ways by devising a way to weave cows' hair. In the 19th century a substantial textile and tapestry industry emerged, aided by a railway link to Amsterdam in 1874. From that time the town grew quickly with rich commuters from Amsterdam moving in, building themselves large villas in the wooded surroundings, and gradually starting to live in Hilversum permanently. Despite this growth, Hilversum was never granted city rights so it is still referred to by many locals as "het dorp," or "the village."
For the 1928 Summer Olympics in neighboring Amsterdam, it hosted all of the non-jumping equestrian and the running part of the modern pentathlon event. The city was the headquarters of the German ground forces (Wehrmacht) in the Netherlands.
The Nederlandse Seintoestellen Fabriek (NSF) company established a professional transmitter and radio factory in Hilversum in the early 1920s, growing into the largest of its kind in the Netherlands, and in 1948 being taken over by Philips. By then the textile industry had started its decline; only one factory, Veneta, managed to continue into the 1960s, when it also had to close its doors. Another major industry, the chemical factory IFF, also closed by the end of the 1960s. In the meantime, almost all Dutch radio broadcasting organizations (followed by television broadcasters in the 1950s) established their headquarters in Hilversum and provided a source of continuing economic growth. The concentration of broadcasters in Hilversum has given it its enduring status as the media city for The Netherlands.
In 1964, the population reached a record high – over 103,000 people called Hilversum home. The current population hovers around 85,000. Several factors figure into the decline: one is the fact that the average family nowadays consists of fewer people, so fewer people live in each house; second, the town is virtually unable to expand because all the surrounding lands were sold to the Gooisch Natuurreservaat by city architect W.M. Dudok. The third reason for this decline of the population was due to the fact that the property values were increasing rapidly in that moment of time. So many people were forced to move to cheaper areas in The Netherlands.
Some sources blame connections in the television world for attracting crime to Hilversum, and the town has had to cope with mounting drug-related issues in a community with higher than average unemployment and ongoing housing shortage.
Hilversum was one of the first towns to have a local party of the populist movement called Leefbaar ("liveable"). Founded by former social-democrat party strongman Jan Nagel, it was initially held at bay for alderman positions. In 2001, Nagel from 'Leefbaar Hilversum' teamed up with 'Leefbaar Utrecht' leaders to found a national 'Leefbaar Nederland' party. By strange coincidence, in 2002 the most vocal 'Leefbaar Rotterdam' politician Pim Fortuyn was shot and killed by an animal rights activist at Hilversum Media Park just after finishing a radio interview. This happened, however, after a break between Fortuyn and Nagel during a Leefbaar Nederland board meeting in Hilversum on Fortuyn's anti-Islamic viewpoints.
The town of Hilversum has put a great deal of effort into improvements, including a recent renovation to its central train station, thorough renovation of the main shopping centre (Hilvertshof), and development of new dining and retail districts downtown including the "vintage" district in the Leeuwenstraat. Several notable architectural accomplishments include the Institute for Sound and Vision, and the largest man-made wildlife crossing in the world, Zanderij Crailo
The population declined from 103,000 in 1964 to 84,000 in 2006.