Murphy Windmill reopens in Golden Gate Park

Murphy Windmill reopening and Queen's Day in Golden Gate Park

Photo: Kyle Mizokami

Amid a field of orange T-shirts and Dutch flags, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the Consul General of the Netherlands on Saturday reopened the Murphy Windmill, a lasting landmark of the Ocean Beach scene.

The windmill, built at the turn of the 20th century and given as a gift to the City of San Francisco, has recently undergone a lengthy rebuilding. The opening of the windmill was timed to coincide with the traditional Dutch Koninginnedag, a national holiday in the Netherlands celebrating the queen’s birthday.

San Francisco’s windmills date to 1902, when the north windmill, known as Dutch Windmill, was built to pump irrigation water into Golden Gate Park. The Murphy Windmill was built in 1905 to pump water to Stow Lake. By World War II the windmills were in a state of disrepair, and the metal inside was removed and melted down for the war effort. Decades of neglect left it in a terrible state of rusted metal and rotted wood.

An architect from Verbij Windmill Construction and Design, a Dutch architectural firm, explained at Saturday’s opening how the firm had been contacted by the Dutch Consulate in 1994 about doing a study on the prospects of restoring the Murphy Windmill. The architect spent a week at the windmill, which had been taken over by pigeons, taking measurements of the windmill’s dimensions. He reported that refurbishing was feasible, and noted some peculiarities to the Murphy Windmill: Not only did it turn backward from traditional Dutch windmills, but at 150 feet in diameter the windmill’s sails were much larger than Dutch sails, which are typically about 90 feet.

Photo: Kyle Mizokami

The architect speculated that his report went “into someone’s desk drawer” because nothing further happened until 2001, when a parks employee of Dutch ancestry read it and encouraged Rec and Park to act on it. Work began in 2002, and the copper cap was sent to the Netherlands for work. The project stalled after a contractor on the project went bankrupt, stranding the cap and windmill sails in the Netherlands with the subcontractor, Verbij Windmill. Progress continued in 2008, and by the autumn of 2011 the  10-ton rotating ring, sails and copper cap had all been fitted back into place.

The head of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and Dutch Consul General Bart van Bolhuis both spoke at the windmill’s opening. Van Bolhuis, cited the windmill as an example of wind power and renewable energy. After a countdown from ten to one in Dutch the public was let inside both the windmill and the restored mill house.

Van Bolhuis also expressed an interest in maintaining a lasting Dutch cultural presence in San Francisco. He also said, “We have a Japantown, we have a Chinatown — this city needs a Dutch town.” He cited the windmill as the ideal place to start, along with the similarly refurbished mill house, which he hoped would be eventually reopened as a cafe to serve Dutch coffee and treats. The planned construction of a new soccer field nearby would round out a Dutch corner of San Francisco, he said.

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  1. Yes…. but can we party on the deck? May I suggest that SF Parks Dept. help fund upkeep of windmill by renting the party deck??


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