Despite being a great success for a few years (so much so that a second windmill was built), by 1913 electric pumps were introduced, so the windmills began to become obsolete. Much of the Dutch Mill's machinery was destroyed by a storm in the 1930's, followed by further gutting to aid the 2nd World War effort. In the winter of 1949 one of the sails was blown off, and a few months later the other 3 sails were removed for safety.
A Citizens Commission formed in 1964 to start efforts to restore the mills, but despite receiving a Federal grant of $10,000 in 1968, it was not until August 1976 that volunteers from the US Navy Reserve started work on restoring the Dutch Mill. Work continued through to completion in 1981. Since then little additional work has been done, and although, as the many photos of the mill show, from the exterior the mill looks impressive, structurally it's showing signs of decay again.
At the base of the mill, the grounds have been laid out as the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden - a fact that contributes to the popularity of the mill as a photo location. It's also given rise to the often repeated, but false story that the mill "was a gift to the city of San Francisco from Holland"!
Point to note: Looking at historical pictures of the mill, it's apparent that the "restored" mill's sails rotate in the opposite direction to the original sails!
The Dutch Mill - Circa 1940's hand coloured print, and 1999
Sadly this mill was never restored, and through to the early 2000's stood sailless and neglected, slowly deteriorating. The Murphy Windmill has a concrete base, which was surmounted by a slate clad wooden upper body, and each year more slates fell from the mill. The remains of the sails were stacked in the undergrowth nearby.
Finally plans to restore the mill came about, and the mill was dismantled right back to the concrete base. Parts were shipped to millwrights in the Netherlands, and everything was due to be reassembled on site in 2006 (though I have been unable to determine if that has happened or not).
Details on the restoration project are to be found at The Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Windmills.
Despite the many web sites with photos of the Dutch Mill, far fewer people put up pictures of the forlorn Murphy windmill.
A question and answer led me to the news that the mill appears in the 1915 Charlie Chaplin movie "A Jitney Elopement", and so you can see it in stills from the movie. Also compare a still to a recent image.
Murphy Windmill, published by Chas.Weidner No.271, Germany.
The Murphy Windmill - As it was in 1999.
Given a good breeze, the sight of the hillside covered as far as the eye can see with twirling turbines makes a very impressive sight.
Panoramic view of one part of Altamont Pass - large image!
|Last updated 27/01/2016||Text and images © Mark Berry, 1997-2016 -|