At the top of a flood control dike in the tiny town of Fulton, Illinois stands a windmill that was fabricated in the Netherlands and shipped to the U.S. The windmill, now known as “De Immigrant,” was assembled and installed in Fulton by Dutch craftsmen; the massive timbers assembled by wooden pegs. The fully functional structure was dedicated in 2000 as a part of a local Dutch Days Festival, which continues to be held annually in May.
The entire cap of the windmill turns by wind power and the mill inside holds a set of blue basalt millstones that produce a wide variety of flours — many of which are available for sale in the gift shop at the Cultural Center across the street. In 2012 some rye milled at the site was used by a local distillery to create a limited edition whiskey!
Another visitor posted this video that shows the mill at work:
Just two years ago the town added a Windmill Cultural Center, which houses a collection of 21 European windmill models. The largest is six feet tall and the entire collection was designed by Henk and June Hielema of DeMotte, Indiana. While the couple lived in Europe on business they traveled and photographed mills. Once they returned stateside, they began to build models of what they’d seen.
The mills are from ten European countries — Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and, of course, The Netherlands. Informative interpretive materials compliment the windmill collection providing unique information on the products produced by windmills, country of origin, windmill specifications, and the cultural impact of windmills.
An education area is at the east end of the facility, offering videos and books about windmills. This is also the area where youngsters can partake in some hands-on activities. The Windmill Cultural Center also has a gift shop where fresh stone-ground flour, Delft pottery and souvenirs can be purchased.
Traditional methods are still used in De Immigrant’s operation. For instance, hog fat is used to lubricate metal parts within the mill, while sheep fat lubricates the curb. Beeswax is used for the teeth on the gears. In addition, the mill’s sails are grounded when not in use — a precaution against lightning strikes. Flags representing the provinces of Holland fly at each corner of the stage rail.
Since the town itself owns the windmill — and paid for its fabrication, shipment and construction on the site, with help from a state grant — the feel of the area isn’t as touristy as might be expected. If anything, there is a reverence to the cultural history of this area, which saw Dutch immigrants relocate from Michigan and other nearby states before they began moving directly from The Netherlands. There is no admission charge for the windmill (although donations are appreciated) and there appears to be a love-hate relationship to the idea of making money from the structure — one of only two functioning Dutch windmills in the U.S.