Golden Gate Park
Martin Luther King Dr
San Francisco, CA 94121
Closed but operating.
No known public tours at this time.
Golden Gate Park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and no admission is required.
(1907 - 1935) Water Pump (40,000 gallon capacity)
(1905 - 1907) Original
(2002 - 2011) Restoration
J. Charles Henry Stut (Original)
Roebuck Construction (Restoration)
Lucas Verbij (Restoration)
City of San Francisco (1907 - present)
History of the Mill
The mighty Murphy Windmill once again towers over Golden Gate Park in downtown San Francisco. Workers are currently completing a near decade-long renovation that includes reconstruction of the windmill’s tower, cap, sails, and tail fan. Despite decades of disuse and decay followed by years of controversial fundraising and restoration efforts, it will once again be the world’s largest Dutch windmill by the end of 2011.
Immediately following the success of the windmill at the north end of Golden Gate Park, it was decided that a second windmill would be built at the south end. This windmill—even larger than the first—would be capable of pumping even more water into Golden Gate Park. In fact, a second windmill earned the support of politicians, companies, and the general public. Samuel G. Murphy, a San Francisco banker, covered most of the construction costs by donating over $25,000 toward the windmill and the millwright’s cottage just to the east.
Other companies donated the concrete, copper, granite, and wood needed to begin construction. Despite delays from the infamous 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco, the massive windmill was completed and operational by 1907. The world’s largest windmill, together with the Dutch Windmill to the north, became known as the “San Francisco Giants,” pumping 70,000 gallons of water per hour into the park.
In 1916—not even a decade into its service—the windmill was fitted with a supplemental electric pump to keep water flowing into the park on calm days. 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.
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. 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.
The tower, which was supposed to be completed by Bloemendal Construction, failed to secure the bonds necessary to complete the renovation. The Recreation and Park Department eventually accepted a bid from Roebuck Construction to finish the job. As Roebuck began work on the tower, the cap arrived from Verbij Hoogmade; but because of the significant delay in finishing the tower, a temporary shed was built to surround all but the tail fan of the cap, which was situated between the Millwright’s Cottage and the base of the tower.
The Millwright’s Cottage standing next to the windmill is also receiving much-needed repairs. Although it is currently used by the windmill construction workers, it may be converted to a restaurant or a museum once completed. Seismic renovations were completed to stabilize the structure. In recent months, work was completed to remove and replace old building materials (including the removal of asbestos) and installing handicapped-accessible ramps to the main entrance.
The construction of the tower is much different from that of any other Dutch windmill. Although its octagonal tower is primarily made of wood, new weather-resistant, pressure-treated lumber is being used to prevent the same kind of rot that originally compromised its structural integrity. Metal fasteners are used to join connecting braces. Pieces of the original tower were used, where possible, in its reconstruction.
The blue-slate shingled tower was completed in August 2011. The cap was lifted onto the tower on September 12, and the sails were installed the following week. Some of the "finishing touches" were completed, and the windmill was formally reopened on April 28, 2012.
Murphy Windmill Reconstruction Project progress - folios by Ron Henggeler
"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.
The restored Murphy Windmill in 2013.
Photo by Allie Caulfield