San Francisco Windmills
1691 John F. Kennedy Drive, San Francisco, California 94121
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, San Francisco, California 94121
San Francisco is home to a large swatch of park space called Golden Gate Park, built on over 1,000 acres of land. Originally, Golden Gate Park was built on dry sand and various dunes, and thus, back in the late 1800s, there was a massive need for irrigation and water in order to turn it into the park it is today. Man made lakes and ponds were formed, all requiring water to be pumped into the park. This led to the construction of two massive windmills located on the west end of the park. At the time, Spring Valley Water Company charged outrageous prices, and it was actually more cost efficient to simply build windmills to pump water into the park.
The more northern windmill is called the Dutch Windmill, while the southern one is named the Murphy Windmill. Both windmills were designed to pump water up from depts of about two hundred feet. At one time they pumped 1.5 million gallons of water on a daily basis, but sadly stopped operating in 1913 (for the Dutch Windmill) and in 1916 (for the Murphy Windmill) when they were replaced by electrical pumps.
The Dutch Windmill
The more northern windmill, the Dutch Windmill was built in 1902 and stands seventy five feet tall. It was designed by San Francisco resident Alpheus Bull Jr. With 102 foot long sails, the Dutch Windmill pumped 30,000 gallons of water an hour and originally filled up Lloyd Lake, Metson Lake, and Spreckels Lake. After it stopped operating it slowly fell into disrepair until back in the 1980s, the daughter of Mayor Angelo Rossi, Eleanor Rossi Crabtree, was able to lead a campaign to restore the windmill. This led to the windmill being surrounded by the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden, that is a sight to see in the spring when the flowers are all in bloom.
The windmill became a San Francisco Designated Landmark on December 6th, 1981. More restorations were done on it in the 2000s and it started working yet again in July 2009.
The Murphy Windmill
A second windmill, the Murphy Windmill, was completed in late 1907, and dedicated on April 11th, 1908. The Murphy Windmill is ninety five feet tall and could originally pump up to 40,000 gallons of water. When it was built, it was the largest windmill of its kind, with sails that spanned 114 feet across, each cut from a single log! It was named after Samuel G. Murphy, a local banker and benefactor who donated $20,000 towards the windmill's construction. By 1910, Millwright's Cottage was built next door un order to house the windmill keeper who performed maintenance on the windmill and shut it down when winds were too high. The sails of the windmill turn clockwise instead of counter-clockwise like other windmills of its type.
In 1915, the Murphy Windmill appeared in the Charlie Chaplin movie, the Jitney Elopement. And in 1921, a local woman named Velma Tilden supposedly hung onto one of the sails for a full 25 rotations in a bet that won her 25 boxes of chocolate. Although there was a period of time where there were no sails on the windmill, the structure was renovated back in 2012 and declared a San Francisco Designated Lanmark on July 2nd, 2000.
You can occasionally see the windmills turn on Saturdays and certain special days, generally, weather permitting from 10 or 11am until the early afternoon as part of regular maintenance.
- Secret San Francisco (2019) by Carlson, Ruth, p: 168 - 169
- San Francisco Curiosities (2010) by Rubin, Saul, p: 72 - 73
First Created: 2021-04-17
Last Edited: 2021-04-17