by Stephanie Lee
The windmill at the southwest end of Golden Gate Park is, at long last, getting the wind back in its sails.
After undergoing nearly a decade of restoration, a shiny copper dome weighing 64 tons was placed atop the Murphy Windmill on Monday. The act capped off the 1905 city landmark that has languished for decades.
In its heyday, the six-story windmill, among the tallest of its kind in the world, pumped water to the rest of the park. But from the mid-20th century onward, its sails rotted, its wrap-around wooden deck was removed and its inside succumbed to roosting pigeons.
The damage inspired citizens and city officials to begin a long campaign to restore the windmill, a process repeatedly held up by a lack of funds.
The restoration finally got under way in 2002. The dome was sent by ship to Lucas Verbij of Verbij Hoogmade, a company in the Netherlands that has been designing and building windmills since 1868.
Nine years later on Monday, a crane hoisted the refurbished cap into the sky and lowered it, inch by inch, on top of the giant.
“It’s putting a cherry on top of the sundae,” said Dan Mauer, project manager from the city’s Recreation and Park Department. “It’s going to outlast all of us. It’s been constructed so the building stands the test of time and the harsh climate it withstands here at the west end of the city.”
The installation marks the second of a three-phase project that is costing more than $6 million in private and public money.
The first step was to catalog every piece of the windmill, dismantle the wood and iron, and salvage whatever could be restored.
The current stage, which costs about $2.4 million, involves rehabilitating the base and installing the cap, sails and gears. It also includes refurbishing Millwright’s Cottage, which stands next to the windmill.
And the final phase, expected to wrap by mid-2012, will consist of reconstructing the windmill, landscaping the area around it and getting water to circulate within the windmill. The plan is to eventually pump water throughout the park again.
The Murphy Windmill is modeled after the kind in Holland, but it has particular qualities that endear it to San Francisco. Dutch windmills, for example, are typically built out of wood – but that material doesn’t hold up well in the salt and wind wrought by Ocean Beach.
“This one has steel, which makes it unique,” Mauer said. “It makes it American.”
The windmill’s namesake is Samuel G. Murphy, a prominent local banker who donated $20,000 toward its construction. It followed the North Windmill, which was completed in 1902.
The restorations have been driven by the Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Park Windmills, a citizen-formed nonprofit that has worked with the city to raise funds since 2000. Money has been donated from dozens of private foundations, state grants and city funds.
As she watched the dome hover inches above the windmill, Mariska Henneberque, an Amsterdam native and co-chairperson of the Campaign to Save the Golden Gate Park Windmills, summarized her feelings in one word: “finally.”
“When are the sails going to be turning?” she said. “That’s going to be amazing.”
Other media coverage:
· GOLDEN GATE PARK GIANTS: 106-year-old South Windmill receives its cap — KTVU
· Windmill in Golden Gate Park to get new dome – ABC 7
· Historic Windmill At Golden Gate Park Refurbished – KCBS Radio
· Winds of Progress Power Old Windmill – NBC 11