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Copyright 2005 - 2020 by Thomas Haskell

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Dutch Windmill

North Windmill
Golden Gate Park
1691 John F. Kennedy Dr
San Francisco, CA 94121

Status

Closed.

 

Tours

Windmill is closed to the public.

 

Hours

Golden Gate Park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and no admission is required.

 

Wheelchair Accessible

No access.

 

Website

Golden Gate Park

 

Tower Height

75'

 

Sail Span

102'

 

Uses

(1903 - 1935) Water Pump (30,000 gallon capacity)

 

Constructed

(1902 - 1903) Original

(1980 - 1981) Restoration

(2010 - 2011) Motor restored

 

Millwrights

Alpheus Bull, Jr. (Original)
? (Restoration)
? (Motor restored)

 

Owner

City of San Francisco (1903 - present)

The Dutch Windmill in Golden Gate Park

Photo by Tom Haskell

Sources
 

 

  • "Pacific Service as an Aid to Nature in Golden Gate Park." Harris, A. L. Pacific Service Magazine, 1914.

  • "Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Park Windmills: A Preservation Planning Critique." Graulty, Sarah LeVaun. University of Vermont, 2007.

  • Personal records / observations

History of the Mill

 

Much of the eastern coast of San Francisco was covered in sand dunes when Golden Gate Park was created.  Commissioners planned for hundreds of new trees, bushes, and grasses to cover the park.  Keeping the new foliage well-watered created an interesting challenge for park planners.  The idea of using a windmill to pump fresh water was initially rejected; in fact, for several years, the park was watered using a portable electric pump.

 

Because the cost of hiring a company to irrigate the park was staggering, the idea of utilizing a wind-powered pump was again considered.  Approval to construct a Dutch-style windmill was finally approved in 1902.  Alpheus Bull, Jr. created the plans based on the tall tower mills that grace the skyline Schiedam, Holland.  Some of the construction materials, like the Oregon pine sails and the copper domed cap, were donated.  The windmill was pumping 30,000 gallons of fresh water per hour into the park just one year later.

 

Although the windmill was reliably capable of irrigating over 100 acres of the park, an electric pump was added to supplement its power in the event winds were too low for operation.  But because of the windmill’s overall success, a second pump—the Murphy Windmill at the south end of the park—was commissioned.  The two mills became known as the “San Francisco Giants,” pumping 70,000 gallons of water per hour into the park.

 

Both windmills were decommissioned in 1935, and in the 1940s their metal pumping parts were scrapped for World War II.  Several attempts were made over the years to either destroy or restore both windmills, but as the debate raged, the windmills were left to decay.  The Dutch Windmill finally received attention in 1980 when it was partially restored; its sails, rebuilt to turn counter-clockwise, turned via an electric motor within the cap.  In 1981, the Queen Wilhelmina Garden was dedicated, beautifying that area of the park.

 

As early as 1993, Lucas Verbij was contacted to conduct a structural analysis of both park windmills, concluding that they both needed attention.  Even after this study, however, the windmills were left untouched.  In 2000, a new committee, Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Windmills, took the reigns of the restoration effort. 

 

Although the committee plans to have both windmills restored to use wind power, much-needed attention was given to the heavily decaying Murphy Windmill.  Through private funding, government funding, and grants, permission was finally granted for work on the Murphy Windmill.  The cap was disassembled and shipped to Verbij Hoogmade for reconstruction in 2002.

 

In 2003, a strong Pacific storm overwhelmed the electric motor within the cap of the Dutch Windmill.  It was not until 2010 – 2011 that the motor was repaired; the mill now operates for a few hours every day.