Monday, August 24, 2015


On Friday, Mom went to yet another estate sale, and she was shocked to find a tiny plate with a painting of a building labeled OLD DUTCH WIND MILL, LAWRENCE KANS.  Mom was shocked because she went to grad school for two years in Lawrence at the University of Kansas, and she had never heard of any old Dutch windmill in that city.

The little plate was only $1.00 because it has a broken place on the bottom, but you cannot see the broken place unless you turn the plate over.  The plate looks bigger in the photo than it really is.  In real life, it is only about 4 inches wide.  This is much too small to be a dog dish, I am sorry to say, but I guess the plate is nice to look at, if you like that kind of thing.

Anyway, I decided to find out if there was any information about the Old Dutch Windmill on the internet, and sure enough, there was.  Two men who were business partners got the idea in 1863 to build a mill.  Their names were John Wilder and Andrew Palmquist.  Mr. Palmquist, who came to this country from Sweden, changed his last name to Palm when he became a U.S. citizen.  I guess he thought his new, shorter name sounded more American.

Lawrence was chosen as a good location to build a windmill because (1) lots of grain farming was going on in the area, (2) the town was growing fast, and (3) Kansas is a windy place.  Mr. Palm went back to Sweden for a few months to get help in designing the mill.  Then he brought machinery from Sweden, along with 14 millwrights, which is what you call people who know how to build mills.

An old cyanotype of the mill

They started building the mill in July, 1863, which was really bad timing because just a month later, on August 21, William Quantrill raided Lawrence and pretty much burned the whole town to the ground.  Not to mention killing a bunch of people.  Quantrill did this because he was pro-slavery, and Lawrence had been built by abolitionists, who were people who wanted to get rid of slavery.  But that is a whole other story.

Anyway, the windmill, which wasn't even finished yet, got damaged in the raid.  But the millwrights went back to work on it, and they finished it in June, 1864.

Color postcard of the Lawrence Windmill, undated.
Lawrence Photo Collection. Call Number: RH PH 18 E:20.1

The mill was octagonal in shape and stood 4 stories high.  It was 55 feet in diameter, and the basement had walls that were 6 feet thick. The mill was mostly made of stone, but there were shingles on the upper part.  Each arm was 34 feet long.  In most ways, it was typical of Dutch windmills, except for the onion dome on top, which was Swedish in style.

Advertisement for Wilder and Palm featuring the Lawrence Windmill, undated. 
Lawrence Photo Collection.  Call Number: RH PH 18 E:49(f).

There were four millstones.  Two were for wheat, and two for corn. The stones were imported from France to get the best quality. Every day the mill could grind 20 bushels each of flour and meal.  When the wind was blowing at a rate of 25 miles per hour, the mill ran at 80 horse power.

Man sitting on junction of windmill arms
Lawrence Photo Collection:  Call number RH PH 18 E:20.1

The mill was located near what is now West 9th Street and Emery Road.  If you look at old pictures of the mill, it seems to be out in the middle of a field someplace, but now the area has apartments, houses, and busy streets.  The mill stopped running in July 1885.  By then, there were water mills operating that made grinding easier and faster.  A fire destroyed the Old Dutch Mill in 1905.


  1. I have a really good photo of this windmill. I picked it up at an antique store in Lawrence some years back. The store no longer exist. Your mom is correct. Nothing can be found of the Lawrence windmill other than the Windmill apartments off of Ninth Street and old photos of the Windmill. I wonder what happen to the millstones and other mechanical parts after the fire. It would be cool for Lawrence to create some kind of historical memorial for the windmill. Like a statue or event.
    Thanks for blog.

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  4. If you copy and paste the link in your address bar you can see the photo. Then click on Raw image to see a larger image. In the large photo you can see that the base of the Windmill was made of limestone and shale bedrock.

    1. That is a great photo! Glad you found it, and thanks for sharing it. Usually, when some iconic structure like that is torn down, some pieces of it end up in a museum or in someone's private garden. Maybe that is where the old millstones are....