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Background

The two windmills anchoring the western edge of Golden Gate Park are so majestic and imposing that it is hard to believe that at one time their function outweighed their stately beauty. The Windmills were built in 1902 and 1905. Powered by the winds blowing off the Pacific, these “San Francisco Giants,” as they are known in The Netherlands, pumped as much as 1.5 million gallons of water daily, transforming the western end of Golden Gate Park from sand dunes to a sylvan sanctuary.

Status
Due to the advent of electrical power, neglect, the ravages of time, and the wind and rain that blow in from the Pacific Ocean, the windmills’ former glory has faded. The North Windmill was renovated in the 1980’s, but now shows signs of damage from beetles, water and the climate conditions. The South Windmill is the largest windmill of its kind in the world. Along with the adjacent Millwright’s Cottage, it is in dire need of attention if it is to remain standing in Golden Gate Park. Its huge 114-foot sails lie rotting on the ground adjacent to the structure. In its present condition, it stands as a symbol of neglect and decay rather than the purposeful workhorse it once was.



South Windmill, current damage

“In my assessment
these windmills
  are engineering marvels
at the same level as the
Golden Gate Bridge.”

Concept
A new vision has emerged for this historic west end of Golden Gate Park. The beachfront has been revived, parking improved and soccer fields refurbished. A community pavilion is planned for the southern end of the soccer fields near the South Windmill, and the landmark Beach Chalet’s W.P.A. murals, commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, have been restored.

The plan envisioned for the Windmills and surrounding grounds will be the crowning touch, complementing these improvements and opening up the west end of the Park as a vibrant destination. This project is particularly timely because it presents a magnificent example of alternative energy use that has withstood the test of time.

This project is particularly timely
  because it presents a magnificent
  example of alternative energy use
  that has withstood the test of time.

As Ray Dracker of the Bechtel Group and National Renewable Energy Laboratory says, “In my assessment these windmills are engineering marvels at the same level as the Golden Gate Bridge. They represent pioneering examples of the exploitation of clean, environmentally sensitive power incorporating all the best engineering systems developed from 1700 - 1900. This project has world-wide importance.”


Restoration of the South Windmill

Now a shadow of its former self, the South Windmill has lost its sails, fan tail and deck. Interior wood stairs and supports are rotting. The rotating “cap” on top has been transported to Holland where Lucas Verbij, a Dutch windmill expert, will restore it and make it operational once again. After local renovation, the base will meet safety standards and be ready for new uses. New sails will be installed and operable once the “cap” is back in place. The interior will be viewed through large windows and will allow visitors to experience the working machanism of a windmill.



South Windmill, current damage


Damage Control at the North Windmill
Insect and water damage at the North Windmill will be halted and improvements made to prevent further damage.

Landscaping Improvements
A one-mile bicycle trail has been proposed. The project will result in reclaiming the densely overgrown meadow area adjacent to the South Windmill.

The Millwright’s Cottage

  • The Millwright’s Cottage is currently undergoing extensive seismic and renovation work concurrently with the restoration of the windmill. Once completed, a vendor has been identified to turn this structure into a café for the public’s enjoyment as well as a model for sustainable/organic gardening.

To volunteer, donate to the campaign or for general information, please contact Natasha Yankoffski at (415) 733.3001.

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