Crowds gathered on Sept. 12 at the edge of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park as the Murphy Windmill now restored got its cap placed on top with the help of a gigantic crane.
The dome-like roof was designed in Holland by Lukas Verbij and constructed separately. The Verbij family has been constructing windmills for generations since 1868. The “cap” is made of metal and is the part of the windmill where the “sails” or vanes are attached allowing them to turn. The “cap” by itself weighs 64 tons and had to be lifted by professional crane with crews assisting.
The ceremony scheduled for 11 AM that Monday got a late start. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that winds through Golden Gate Park and ends at Great Highway where the century-old windmill is located was closed to cars. The intersection of Lincoln Way and La Playa adjacent to MLK Drive was blocked off until Noon. SFPD’s Mounted Police unit was present along with dozens of on-lookers all eager to watch the “cap” be set in place. Cheers and applause went out as the crane started up and slowly lifted the cap-dome in place. The local press, such as the San Francisco Chronicle was out with plenty of photographers to record this event.
San Francisco Recreation & Parks, General Manager Phil Ginsburg was pleased with the turn out of people as the fog gradually cleared and sunshine eventually broke through making the occasion into a memorable event. “Murphy Windmill and the Queen Wilhelmina Windmill were instrumental in building the park at a time when there was nothing (out here) but sand,” he said.
The placing of the “cap” atop the traditional tower windmill is the completion of Phase II for the Murphy Windmill restoration project. Phase III - which Ginsburg said anticipates reaching completion hopefully by the end of the year would have the pump and motor mechanisms in place, making Murphy Windmill fully functional.
Ginsburg congratulated everyone involved in the project, like project manager Dan Mauer, designer Lukas Verbij and all the various work crews such as Roebuck Construction. He especially thanked the many groups such as the Dutch community and foundations that helped raise money to fund the restoration. Restoration of the windmill has been over a decade in the making and required the cooperation of many dedicated people.
Bart van Bolhuis, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and staff was present at the ceremony. Bolhuis was pleased and said that the “Windmill is beautiful and I and the Consulate of the Netherlands are very grateful.”
Standing at 95 feet tall (which is about a six story-level building) the Windmills of Golden Gate Park are often referred to in Holland as “the San Francisco Giants.” While on the surface the Murphy Windmill is of a traditional design, Verbij later said at a gathering at the Dutch Consulate’s home that the engineering was far more complex. At the turn of the 20th Century use of iron and steel mechanisms was advancing surpassing what had been up until that time the traditional windmill craftsmanship of Holland and the rest of Europe.
Local resident Gary Fisher was among those gathered that Monday. “This is really cool,” he said. The windmill tells the story of how Golden Gate Park got here. Every great city has something like this,” he said.
Richmond District residents Maurice Molyneaux and Richard Boswell agreed as they told this reporter they had been watching the restoration work take shape over the last several months. “Seeing it rebuilt step by step, the scaffolding, the decks, then the shingles,” said Molyneaux.
Murphy Windmill completed in 1905 obsoleted into ruin along with the Queen Wilhelmina Windmill after decades of service pumping millions of gallons of water throughout Golden Gate Park. Together the two windmills played a vital role allowing Golden Gate Park to grow and thrive. Ginsburg and others are hoping that the windmills original function can be restored to promote ecologically sound energy and water management.