Danish Windmill

Norre Snede Windmill
4038 Main St
Elk Horn, IA 51531

Status

Open and operating.

 

Tours

Tours are available during open hours.  Admission is $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children.

 

Hours

Memorial Day to Labor Day

   Monday - Saturday: 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

   Sunday: 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. 

 

Winter Hours

   Monday - Saturday: 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

   Sunday: Noon to 5:00 P.M.

 

Wheelchair Accessible

Ground level only.

 

Website

Danish Windmill

 

Tower Height

60'

 

Sail Span

66'

 

Uses

(1848 - 1940s) (1977 - present) Wheat

(1848 - 1940s) (1977 - present) Corn

(1848 - 1940s) (1977 - present) Rye

(1947 - ?) Electricity

 

Constructed

(1848) Original

(1865) First Reconstruction

(1943) Second Reconstruction

(1976 - 1977) Relocated / Restored

 

Millwrights

Jens Olesen (Original)

Ernst Schultze (First Reconstruction)

Christen Lundsgaard (First Reconstruction)

Poul Jorgensen (First Reconstruction)

Kresten Vestergaard (Second Reconstruction)

Volunteers of Elk Horn, IA (Relocated / Restored)

 

Owners

Frederick Miller (1848 - 1855)

Christian Rasmussen (1855 - 1860)

Ernst Schultze (1860 - 1870)

Christen Lundsgaard (? - 1870)

Poul Jorgensen (? - 1870)

Toni Thomsen (1870 -1880)

Soren Hansen (1880 - 1890)

Rasmus Skov (1890 - 1912)

Kresten Vestergaard (1912 - 1947)

Julius and Kirsten Hansen (1947 - 1975)

City of Elk Horn, IA (1975 - present)

 

Honors

Named "Best Attraction" by the Iowa Tourism Bureau

Source

 

The Danish Windmill from Norre Snede, Denmark.

Photo from the Danish Windmill Facebook page

History of the Mill

 

The windmill was originally constructed as a smock grist mill in Norre Snede, Denmark, in 1848.  In those days, the construction of a new windmill was celebrated by farmers and also revered as an engineering achievement—without the aid of electric tools or heavy lifting equipment.  The Norre Snede Windmill worked to grind grain for local farmers until a fire destroyed it in 1865.

 

The new owners of the mill petitioned to rebuild it at a different location within Norre Snede.  During its reconstruction, however, another fire destroyed its machinery, causing a delay of its completion.  The windmill again ground grain for a number of years until it was, again, destroyed by fire in 1943.  Kresten Verstergaard, the owner at the time, rebuilt the windmill himself; it is his handiwork we see in the windmill today.

 

Elk Horn, Iowa has one of the highest concentrations of Danish immigrants in the United States.  In 1975, Elk Horn, IA resident Harvey Sornson fell in love with the rural landscape of his ancestral home.  When he returned to Elk Horn, he asked to have a “crazy idea” fulfilled—to bring one Denmark’s windmills to the United States.

 

In a matter of months, the town supported Sornson’s idea.  The Norre Snede Windmill was identified by the Danish government as a candidate for Elk Horn; the transaction was allowed because of the windmill’s severe deterioration.  In just a few more months, the people of Elk Horn had raised enough money to purchase, disassemble, and ship the windmill to the United States.

 

Every timber of the mill was marked and documented as it came down.  Because there were no existing blueprints, a scale model was created and shipped with the freight to America.  The windmill arrived on large trucks on February 7, 1976.  Amazingly, the windmill was completely rebuilt and operating by March 1977, all through the work of volunteers.  Because none of the work was hired, people from all different backgrounds and professions throughout Iowa donated their time to work on the windmill.

 

Even more amazing, the Danish Windmill is a living example of Poul la Cour’s work.  When the role of grinding grain was passed to steam engines and electric motors, la Cour envisioned repurposing custom mills by fitting them with generators.  The previous owners, Julius and Kirsten Hansen, used the windmill to generate electricity for their home in rural Denmark.  Although it is now once again used to grind grain, it could be argued that Danish Windmill is among the oldest wind turbines still standing.

 

The windmill continues to turn today.  In addition to the windmill, Danish buildings and exhibits can be found on the property.  Recently, more restoration work has taken place on the windmill, and the grounds have been enhanced with, among other changes, a new electric car charging station.

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Copyright 2005 - 2020 by Thomas Haskell

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