A beautiful oasis on the edge of downtown Holland, Windmill Island features a 248 year old working Dutch windmill “De Zwaan” (meaning graceful bird). The windmill, which reaches 125 feet from the ground to the top of the blades, towers over 36 acres of manicured gardens, dikes, canals and picnic areas.
De Zwaan was first was erected in Krommenie, near Amsterdam, Noord Holland in 1761. In 1889, it was moved to Vinkel in the province of Noord Brabant and reconstructed there.
When Holland, Michigan residents Willard Wichers and Carter Brown were looking for a way to pay homage to the city’s Dutch heritage, they began a project to bring a Dutch windmill to the United States. However, many of these monumental structures had suffered serious damage in World War II. As a result, the Dutch government had placed a ban on the sale of windmills outside the Netherlands. Wichers and his group were able to gain an exemption by selecting a heavily damaged mill known as De Zwaan. De Zwaan was at the center of a controversy, with three local agencies unable to determine the future of the damaged windmill. The Dutch government decided to sell it to Wichers for $2800, making De Zwaan the last windmill to leave the Netherlands.
In October, 1964, De Zwaan arrived aboard the Prins Willem van Oranje. It was unloaded at the Muskegon harbor and transported by truck to Windmill Island in Holland. It took approximately 6 months to reconstruct the mill.
In April 1965, the 125-foot (38 m) windmill was formally dedicated on Windmill Island, a 36-acre (150,000 m2) site reclaimed from a swamp on the eastern end of Lake Macatawa. It is open from late April through early October.
When winds are favorable (15 to 20 miles per hour from the west), De Zwaan’s 80-foot (24 m) diameter blades are usually in motion.