The De Zwaan Windmill in Holland Michigan is the only authentic Dutch-built working windmill in the United States.
How did such an historic icon come to travel across the ocean and make its home in a Midwestern beachtown?
It may surprise you to learn that the De Zwaan didn’t arrive in Holland until the nineteen sixties; more than 100 years after the community was established by Dutch settlers.
After the first group of Holland’s Dutch forefathers immigrated in 1847, towns-people built windmills for practical reasons; sawmills, flour mills, and pump mills for example.
Fast forward to 1928 when biology teacher Lida Rogers suggested Holland adopt the tulip as the flower. She further proposed hosting a Tulip Time Festival in May when these cheerful flowers bloom. After it’s initial successful debut, Tulip Time Festival became an annual event. A replica windmill was built as a feature in the city’s tulip garden.
Decades later, Carter P. Brown, a local resort [Castle Park] owner, proposed the idea of acquiring an authentic working windmill to reinforce Holland’s Dutch heritage.
Snips from the Holland Sentinel tell the unfolding story:
Wednesday, September 20, 1961; Tulip Time Board of Directors received “a letter from Carter Brown of The Castle [which] outlined suggestions for providing a setting of canals and a windmill for klompen dancing along with bleachers.”
Wednesday October 4, 1961; “Brown said he would like to see an authentic Dutch windmill, preferably one that operated and maybe even ground grain.” “He expressed the hope that the Dutch government would be interested to the point it would consider dismantling one of its jealously guarded old mills and transfer it to its namesake here.”
Friday October 6, 1961; “Symbolic of the community’s Dutch heritage, the windmill at Windmill Park is one of Holland’s favorite beauty spots and the subject of many an interesting picture. In summer and winter, fall and spring, this sentry at the north entrance to Holland with its setting of willows and ornamental shrubs provides that certain touch that few cities can duplicate. A similar development on the Black River front east of River Ave. is being considered.”
Wednesday October 11, 1961; “Carter Brown of Castle Park, originator of the idea, was appointed permanent chairman of “Operation Windmill”. He is now in the process of making initial appointments to the executive committee.”
Friday October 20, 1961; ““Project Windmill” has received its first offer of materials for the program which hopes to have a windmill constructed on the river site along with canals and other development. The offer came in a letter from T. Keppel’s Sons which offered some materials when development reaches that point.”
So the prospect of an authentic Dutch windmill has become real in the minds of the Holland City Council, the Tulip Time Board of Directors, and local businessmen.
Stay tuned to see how they will they make this idea a reality for the city of Holland!