Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Windmill Island Gardens

While we were up in Saugatuck, Michigan, we visited the Windmill Island Gardens. It is located in the city of Holland, which is about a twenty minute drive away. Holland is famous for its tulips, the Tulips Festival, and the windmill.

Unfortunately we were about three weeks too early for the festival, and there was nary a tulip to be found. We DID see some daffodils in bloom, though.

If you ever are in the area and want to see something different and lots and lots of beautiful tulips, I certainly would visit Holland, Michigan. I have been there during the tulip festival. The parade is fun to watch, especially watching the people scrub the street as they walk.

According to the Tulip Time Festival website, the festival includes three parades, traditional Dutch dance performances, concerts, theatre, Dutch attractions, Dutch food, children's events, and Tulip City Tours.

What you can see off season is Windmill Island Gardens, where the working windmill stands.

The day we visited it was overcast and hardly any visitors were in sight. We first came upon this building.

It is appropriately called the "Organ House", where, you guessed it, the organ is kept. But not just ANY organ. This organ was built in 1928 by the famous organ maker Carl Frei in the city of Breda. It was given as a gift to the city of Holland in 1947 by the city of Amsterdam out of gratitude to the U.S. for its role in liberating the Netherlands in World War II. (cited)

It used to be pulled in the parade during the Tulip Festival, but that stopped in 1960. The organ is inspected and tuned/repaired once a year. It is so specialized that the repairman comes from Europe to do the work. That is him in the left side of the photo. Yeah, the organ wasn't working when we were there.

The 125-foot tall windmill stands on a 36 acre site.

This windmill is called "De Zwaan", which is Dutch for "The Swan". De Zwaan was first erected in Krommenie, near Amsterdam, Noord Holland in 1761. In 1889 it was moved to Vinkel, in the province of Noord Brabant and reconstructed there. Two Holland, Michigan residents (Wichers and Brown) went on a search to bring a Dutch windmill to their town to pay homage to the city's Dutch heritage. Many of the windmills had suffered structural damage due to World War II and the Dutch government placed a ban on the sale of windmills outside of the Netherlands.Wichers gained an exemption from this ban, and was able to purchase the damaged De Zwaan for $2800. It was the last windmill to leave the Netherlands. De Zwann arrived in October 1964 and it took six month to reconstruct. Wikipedia

When you enter the windmill, there are two sets of double doors. This is so the farmer could drive his wagon in, unload, and lead his team of horses out the other doors.

The mill is five stories up. Back in the day there were no stairs like what we walked up on the tour. The miller had to climb ladders all the way to the top. So it was very inconvenient for the miller to keep climbing down if someone entered the mill. He devised a plan where he hung a wooden shoe from a rope. A person would write a note to the miller, shove it in the shoe, then pull on the rope. He would also tie his bags of grain to be lifted to the top of the mill to be ground.

Here is a close up of the shoe. Translation: Messages for the miller

One of two millstones

photo credit: Wikipedia
Another interesting tidbit about this windmill. It is operated by the first ever female miller. Her name is Alisa Crawford, and she received her Dutch Mill Society miller certification in 2007, joining the Dutch Guild of Volunteer Millers. Because the course was taught entirely in Dutch, Crawford spent two years learning the language. She is the only American professional Dutch Miller. Even with the highest level of certification for her specialty, she cannot apply to become a Master Miller for ten years.

photo credit: Holland Sentinel
She has to ground the flour just so using the wind to move the gears to grind the grain. She has to be able to move the blades of the windmill by herself to catch the wind. The blades are 80 feet long and 6 feet wide, and weigh three tons. She uses a "capstan wheel" to turn the blades so they can be aimed directly into the wind. Everything above the green band (see photo of the windmill above) is on rollers so the entire cap will rotate.

A long way up there!

Did you know that the Dutch used their windmills to send signals to their surrounding neighbors? Depending on the position of the sails (arms of the windmill) - the message would tell what was happening with the miller such as celebration/joy, mourning, or rest? Click here to read more on this topic and to see a demonstration of the different positions.

Currently De Zwaan is grounding wheat flour.

We picked up a bag from the gift shop.

So far I've made pancakes with it and they were delicious!

We walked over to "Little Netherlands".

Consisting of a large gift shop, a museum, and a concession stand.

I bought a wooden bowl and had it engraved at the gift shop. Here is the woman doing the wood-burning:

The finished product.

Afterwards I thought it may have been confusing, thinking the April 21, 1984 date was our 29th anniversary, when actually that was our wedding day. Well, as long as I know what it means, I guess it's okay!

Windmill Island Gardens also boasts having an antique carousel which was built in 1908 by DeBoer Bros. It is made of wood, and called a "kiddie machine", a European trait, because it was built for children. The animals are stationary and do not move up and down like the modern carousels.

The following photos are from this year's tulip festival. I cannot take credit for them; I got them from the internet for your viewing pleasure.

photo credit: Huffington Post


Eva Gallant said...

Thanks for sharing a very interesting post with great photos!

Banker Chick said...

We lived within a day of Holland MI and never visited. I feel from your pictures, I really missed something.

Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

Brian Miller said...

what a cool place...ha on getting there before the festival...we did that with a festival near here...drove 2 hours to windmills would be very cool...the pics look like a cool town...

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I loved this! These windmills, I like. The awful "wind turbines", I do not. Thanks for this!

JoJo said...

Wow I had no idea about this place! It sounds awesome!!! Was there any entrance fee?

in the coop said...

Oh, I've been here! One year my husband and I took a rambling trip around Lake Michigan and made this one of our stops. Your pictures do a great job of giving the feel of the place.

Adam said...

that place looks awesome

Carletta said...

What a charming place to have visited.
I think it's just a little sad that the organ is in that small building. I imagine a much grander surrounding for it especially if you're paying someone to come all the way from Europe to tune it. :)

DesertHen said...

What a wonderful post! I loved all of the photos! I don't know why, but I half expected to see Gingerbread people walking down that sidewalk. Guess I better put down the wine...Ha! Love your anniversary bowl!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

What a great place to visit! Michigan is one of only three states that we haven't slept in (RV'd).. we have obviously missed a lot.