Rows upon rows of tulips sit surrounding one of the two impressive giant windmills in the western area of Golden Gate Park. As you tour Golden Gate Park, you’ll notice these giant remnants of the past sticking out above the trees with their impressive architecture and historical importance.
This view will likely leave you wondering, what’s the story behind the windmills?
History of the Windmills
Both windmills were built over one hundred years ago, at a time when the primary purpose of the park was to create an enticing location for visitors filled with lakes and greenery to explore. However, it became apparent that a water irrigation system was necessary to keep the planted trees alive.
Most of the land was covered in ocean dunes, making it challenging to create the lush and inviting garden as park commissioners were hoping for. The North (Dutch) and the South (Murphy) windmills were built as a solution. At the time, they were used to pump 1.5 million gallons of water through the park daily.
These windmills were inspired by those in the Netherlands, which pushed water away from specific areas. Initially, these large windmills used wind power from the San Francisco gusts to churn the water. Less than 10 years later, both windmills were updated to include an electric system that aided in pumping water into the park.
Affectionately referred to as the SF Giants or San Francisco Giants, these windmills are no longer in use, unfortunately. Though you may still catch the giant sails spinning on weekends and holidays.
A fun fact about these windmills: They turn clockwise, unlike the traditional windmills in the Netherlands, which spin in a counterclockwise rotation!
The North (Dutch) Windmill
The North Windmill and South Windmill were built a few years apart. The Dutch Windmill was built first in 1902 after it was designed by Alpheus Bull, Jr. This windmill sits at an impressive 75 feet tall. Though it was crafted to pump water, it can no longer draw up water after a previous restoration.
This windmill resides near the Beach Chalet and Park Chalet Restaurants, both offering lovely views of the Pacific, Ocean Beach and The Dutch Windmill.
Below the towering Dutch Windmill is the Queen Wilhelmina Garden, where some 10,000 tulip bulbs planted each fall blossom the following March; interspersed with Iceland poppies, the tulips seem even more glorious and colorful. The bowl-shaped garden was designed by Roy L. Hudson and named in 1962 to honor the long-reigning queen of the Netherlands, who had died that same year. Tulips, the emblem of perfect love, originate from central Asia and Turkey, from where they were introduced into Europe and the Americas in the 17th century.
The South (Murphy) Windmill
Due to the success of the first windmill (north), the South Windmill was commissioned shortly after and funded by the VP of Hibernia Bank. This windmill, built-in 1907, sits about ½ mile south of the initial windmill. At the time it was the largest windmill of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, upkeep on this windmill was abandoned. This lack of maintenance left its long sails disconnected from the rest of the windmill. A complete renovation of the Murphy Windmill and adjacent Millwright’s Cottage was completed in 2012.
Tour Golden Gate Park by Segway
You can learn more about these incredible windmills and their connection to the park by enjoying a guided Segway Tour on The Official Golden Gate Park Segway Tour. This tour runs for 2.5 hours in the mornings and afternoons, taking you through the lovely pathways in the park.
For a more personalized experience, enjoy The VIP Private Golden Gate Park Segway Tour, which lasts three hours and if you choose can take you to these towering giants.
Each fully guided tour offers Segway training before you head out on your tour. Enjoy learning about the park through a headset as you explore the park.