There are many curiosities in Golden Gate Park. One that has always peaked my interest are the two Dutch Windmills that flank the northwest and southwest corners of the park at Ocean Beach. It might be hard to imagine Golden Gate Park as a barren wasteland of sand dunes, but that’s what it was prior to the start of its development in the late 1800’s. The windmills, installed in the early 1900’s, served the purpose of irrigating the park’s new lush landscape.
With the introduction of more efficient electric pumps some years later, the windmills fell into disrepair. The Dutch Windmill (pictured above) on the north “Richmond” side of the park was restored in the early 1980’s. It’s questionable as to whether or not it is actually used to pump water anymore, although you can sometimes see it in operation on nice days and the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden surrounding it is always gorgeous.
The story of the Murphy Windmill on the south “Sunset” side of the park, however, has long been a sad one. It lay in ruins for decades, only occupied by pigeons, before being completely dismantled for restoration. The project was slow going, taking many years, but seems to have finally turned the corner. Late this summer a striking brand new copper dome direct from Holland was placed on the windmill, and workers seem to be putting on finishing touches. Word is that when it is finished, it will be fully operational in irrigating the park once again.
See more photos of the Murphy Windmill restoration from Ron Henggeler.