Windmills spin in Golden Gate Park


It’s been a while.

Nobody knows exactly how long, but for the first time in decades, both enormous windmills stationed at the west edge of Golden Gate Park are finally capable of spinning in the wind again.

A grand re-opening of the Murphy windmill drew hundreds to the Park for a sunny Saturday celebration of Koninginnedag, or Dutch queen’s day. The Murphy windmill joins the aptly named Dutch windmill on the Fulton side of Golden Gate Park, which was renovated in 1981.

Plans to refurbish the six-story Murphy windmill have been in the works since the 1990s. In 2002, community groups raised enough money to start work on fixing up the 107-year-old landmark.

It was hardly smooth sailing, though. A contractor on the project went bankrupt, stalling the project and stranding the windmill’s enormous copper cap in the Netherlands, where it had been shipped to be rebuilt.

In 2008, the project picked up steam again, and by late last year, the windmill’s majestic 150-foot sails — considered the world’s largest — were once again ready to greet the wind.

The Dutch and Murphy windmills were built in 1902 and 1905 to pump irrigation water into Golden Gate Park at Stow Lake. By 1914, electric pumps had been installed, relegating the windmills to sitting there and looking pretty.

Dutch Consul General Bart van Bolhuis attended the ceremony. He told the crowd he hoped the windmill — along with a cafe in the refurbished mill house, and new nearby soccer fields — could form a revival of Dutch culture in a special corner of San Francisco:

“We have a Japantown, we have a Chinatown — this city needs a Dutch town.”

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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