Traditional Dutch or European Windmills

Below is a collection of photos of traditional or European windmills from my archives. Over the years I’ve added more photos as time permits. Many of these are scans of photos before the digital age. I’ve scanned only those images I thought of most interest.

For more information, including lists of the open-air museums where some of these photos were taken, see History of Wind Power.

Traditional Dutch or European Windmills

Germania and Zilvermeeuw Windmills

Kinderdijk Windmills

Zaanse Schans Windmills

One Sunday morning in 1996 we were driving back from the dedication of an ill-fated American wind farm in the Dutch province of Groningen. (That in itself is another story; see Fluttering Flags, Can-can, & the Big Men of Wind Energy and Remarks by Paul Gipe at the Dedication of EDON’s Wind Plant at Eemshaven, the Netherlands.)

It may have been National Windmill Day—yes, there is such a thing. We were driving by the Germania mill, its giant rotor turning and its windmill flag flying, indicating it was open to the public. Naturally we had to stop for a visit. We met Gerkes and his father and, thus, began a wonderful adventure. It was a beautiful day for a Dutch miller–blue sky, a few clouds, and a good stiff breeze.

Germania is a grain-grinding stage or platform mill near the small town of Thesinge. We also visited Zilvermeeuw or the herring gull drainage mill near Onderdendam that Gerkes considered his home away from home. This is a ground sailing windmill because it is not raised on a platform and the rotor sweeps the ground.

At Kinderdijk south of Rotterdam, 19 traditional windmills—working in tandem in a gang–collectively drained a polder until 1950. This group of windmills, now an open-air museum, is likely the oldest known wind farm in the world.

All photos copyright by Paul Gipe. All rights reserved.

Windmills may have been the driving force of the industrial Revolution. During the eighteenth century the Zaan region northwest of Amsterdam (Noord Holland) became Holland’s powerhouse. There Dutch millers constructed what must have been an amazing assembly of more than 700 industrial windmills along the Zaan River. Some suggest there were as many as 1,000. These windmills drove Dutch industry at a time when Britain and Germany were still trying to figure out what to do with a black rock they found underground.

Monuments to the region’s halcyon days can still be seen at Zaanse Schans open air museum near Zaandam. There the Dutch have preserved ten windmills that were used to saw timber, mill flax, grind grain, crush spices, shred tobacco, and grind pigments for paint. The also have a couple of small drainage mills as well.

The photos below were probably taken in the late 1980s—long before digital metadata.

All photos copyright by Paul Gipe. All rights reserved.