On Sept. 13 Bart van Bolhuis, the Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
opened his home to celebrate the restoration of the Murphy Windmill in Golden Gate Park. Along with the premiere of the Dutch Masterworks exhibit from the private Van Otterloo collection at the Legion of Honor Museum this past summer, the Consulate in San Francisco had much to celebrate.
Yet as Consul General van Bohluis explained to this reporter, "we are celebrating not only celebrating our past but anticipating the future," he said. He pointed to all the examples of contemporary art and design that were on display at the consulate's home. "Old style meeting new," he said.
The ornate interior woodwork of the 19th Century house with large French-style windows, in San Francisco's Pacific Heights neighborhood was the backdrop to some of the most innovative and unique modern designs. Each month the members of the Northern California Chapter of the Netherland-America Foundation meet to fellowship and to discuss needs and issues concerning the Dutch community.
With the windmill being restored and the Van Otterloo exhibit being featured in San Francisco, I thought turning our usual monthly meeting into a celebration would be a good idea," said van Bolhuis. The Consul General's home was filled to capacity as NAF members and their guests gathered for the festive occasion. Many of the members are directly from the Netherlands or are descendants of Dutch. Yet all of the people this reporter talked to at the party that Tuesday evening explained that there is much more to the Dutch people than windmills. Dutch history is very complex and the Dutch had a tremendous influence upon America and the world.
Due to the spice trade and European expansion into the "new world" In the 1600's the Dutch established settlements such as New Amsterdam, which later then became New York. The Dutch influence can be traced to many parts of the world such as Indonesia and Brazil. "Even though there influence was not as sweeping as Portugal or Spain, the Dutch still manage to make some impact in Brazil often in conflict over the pricing of sugar as they invested heavily in the sugar trade," said Silvio Levy. He and his wife were guests of the consulate as their son is currently studying in Holland.
"The Dutch were explorers ship builders, and merchants;" this is why they traveled so much, said Cornelia de Schepper. Her parents were both from Holland, her father from Rotterdam, her mother from a town near The Hague. "My parents came to the United States after World War II," she said. "And, I was was born and raised on the East Coast," said de Schepper. Many like de Schepper and others converse easily in more than one language. Almost everyone at the party spoke more than two languages.
And, even thought there were many dignitaries along with some royalty present at the party, the Dutch also represent a very eclectic and diverse mix of people. Artists, designers, technicians, diplomats, mixed easily with merchants, craftsmen, high-powered engineers and business entrepreneurs with handymen and general contractors. The group that evening were seemed very cohesive and eager for fellowship regardless of rank or status.
Nathalie d'Adelharpttoorp has been living in the Bay Area and finds the gatherings beneficial as members of the Netherland-America Foundation
and others revive their cultural and family ties, speaking Dutch and keeping up-to-date on news from home. "The Dutch were and are a well-traveled people," said d'Adelharpttoorop.
Testimony of that history is detailed in the two major exhibits that have been shown in San Francisco this past spring and summer. The Bali exhibit
noted the influence of the Dutch as colonizers and the Masterworks displayed at the Legion of Honor until this past Oct 2, from the Van Otterloo Collection
highlights the considerable influence the Dutch had upon the world stage.
Yet as Consul General van Bohluis pointed out, "Dutch art and culture is not all about the past it is also about the new." He then made reference to several of the contemporary design art pieces that were included in the extensive collection displayed around the house.
Van Bohluis asked all to gather as he asked the Murphy Windmill restoration designer Lukas Verbij to say a few words along with Douglas Engmann who was among those instrumental in keeping the windmill project going. For a brief time he served as honorary Consul General, "even though I am not Dutch," said Engmann. Both he and Verbij expressed their gratitude for all the work that was done and the many hours as well as funding that was donated to bring the century-old windmill back from the dead.
"Doug is a wonderful man," said de Schepper, as her sentiments reflected much of the admiration and applause Engmann received that evening.The local Dutch community is very appreciative of Engmann's work. He told this reporter later by phone that he is very grateful to the City of San Francisco, the Recreation & Parks Department among others for allowing the Dutch community to help restore these two historical treasures.
Verbij noted that the Murphy Windmill was in very poor condition and part of the challenge for him was to uncover the complex and intricate mechanical aspects of the windmill. Clearly, both windmills, Murphy Windmill and Queen Wilhelmina Windmills were vital in providing assistance to the irrigation of water throughout Golden Gate Park, thus allowing it to thrive.
But Verbij said that what made the windmills unique was that they had a combination of old world craftsmanship and new technology; at least new at that time for the late 19th and early 20th Century. Verbij did some extraneous efforts to trace the exact details since records were scarce and there is nothing like these two San Francisco giant windmills in the Netherlands. "These are really unique," he said.
Both Engmann and Verbij said that with budget deficits and a shortage of staff available from the Rec. & Parks Dept. that special efforts would have to be made to ensure that the windmills are not only properly maintained but in full working order. "Not to have the windmills in full working order pumping water goes against all the work that was done to restore them," said Engmann. To have them both fully functional and not simply as an ornament of the past would also be very educational and help to revitalize the Western edge of Golden Gate Park.
"We want to help to provide an operator for the windmill," said Engmann. And, this way the future of the windmills for the next generations will be more assured. Plans to have food served at the windmill's cottage is in the process
of being negotiated. Engmann is looking forward to the continued help of the Dutch community and many others to complete the goals he and others envision for the windmills. Yet for now he as well as the Dutch community in the San Francisco area are very proud and honored to see these unique windmill landmarks restored.