Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

De Zwaan Windmill (1761-1965)

Windmill Island, Holland MI

Aerial View and Directions

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Photographs taken July 6, 2012

De Zwaan, translates as Graceful Bird,  is purported to be the “only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States”. Originally constructed in Krommenie, Noord Holland in 1761, then moved to Vinkel, Noord Brabant in 1889. The windmill was then moved  across the Atlantic to Holland Michigan in 1965. Said be 80% original, with 20% of the building elements constructed in Michigan ( such as the brick walls on the lower portion of the structure). Although not working the day I was there, this 250 year old windmill is functional when the winds are strong enough to support turning the blades. And yes, they do mill flour in the windmill and even sell it in their giftshop.

I found the inward corbelled brick wall construction interesting. The doors and windows are installed vertically in the masonry. The thickness of the wall allows this with the stepped brick construction. The windmill overall is 125 feet tall, the height of a 10 story building. The size is deceiving as it stands alone in a field on an island. Once you climb the stairs to the deck height, or look out the windows further up in the windmill, you quickly realize how high up you are.

There is also a small “village” as part of the complex, with a row of buildings in the Dutch style.

Michigan is lucky to have this artifact, as it is the last windmill allowed to be taken out of the Netherlands. With many of the windmills damaged or destroyed in WWII, the Dutch government placed a ban on removing them from the country. There was an exception made for this one windmill, and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands attended the dedication in Holland, Michigan in 1965.

Click here for more information on visiting Windmill Island


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