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Posted on Wed. Apr. 10, 2013 - 12:01 am EDT

Mid-America Windmill Museum puts its own kind of 'spin' on history

53 windmills on display chronicle changes in wind power

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Windmill history

What: The Mid-America Windmill Museum has more than 50 different types of windmills on display.

When: Open April through November. Hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sundays.

Where: 732 S. Allen Chapel Road east of Kendallville. From Fort Wayne, take Interstate 69 north to U.S. 6 and go west toward Kendallville. At the stoplight at Allen Chapel Road, turn left and drive about a half mile to the entrance.

Cost: $5, adults; $4, ages 55 and older; $3, children and students; and free, ages 5 and younger

Information: 1-260-347-2334 or www.midamericawindmillmuseum.org

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Kendallville has a forest of operating windmills. Fifty-three of the historically majestic machines stand on the 40-acre property of the Mid-America Windmill Museum on the east side of town.

According to Pam Younce, a member of the Windmill Museum & Historical Society board, they have more than 50 additional mills in various stages of restoration that, when erected, will bring the museum the world's record for the most classic wind machines in one location.

“When we started 18 years ago, we set a goal of putting up five new ones every year,” says Yonce, “but we've had to rethink that because of all the time needed to keep them in operating condition. Now, if we get two or three new mills erected, we're lucky.”

Though many of the windmills have been donated to the Historical Society, the majority of the collection was purchased from the widow of a Texas collector, Billy Wayne Christopher, in 1999. Five members of the Society journeyed to the Lone Star state, dismantled 50 windmills, brought them back and erected them.

Yonce points out that “farmers were once eager to be rid of their old mills, but, now that they've become collector's items, they're tougher to obtain.”

The Society has identified 85 different windmills built by firms located within a 75-mile radius of Kendallville.

One of the biggest manufacturers was Flint & Walling Manufacturing Company (F&W) right in Kendallville. The museum has one of each of the 11 models of windmills made by F&W, including the last one the company built in 1954. Though no longer in the windmill business, the company now manufactures domestic water systems, pumps, softeners and submersibles.

A good many of the windmills date to the late 1800s, with the most valuable of the collection being the original F&W wooden Star windmill. It and two other wooden mills, the Halladay Standard made in Batavia, Ill., in 1854, and the Althouse Wheeler built in Waupon, Wis., in the mid-1870s, are kept in the display barn to protect them from weather deterioration.

A vast array of windmill parts can be seen in the barn, where one can also view a short video on the history of wind power.

Paths meander through the field of windmills where plaques explain each one. There are also benches strategically located where one can relax and listen to the “song” of the spinning mills.

Each of the mills operates. If there were wells beneath them, they would be pumping water, which was their primary function. The collection also includes a modern, 5-kilowatt, wind generator.

One of the gems on the property and the museum's signature piece is a replica of a Robertson Post Windmill similar to those used by the Pilgrims to grind grain in the 1600s. Blueprints were obtained by the Windmill Museum & Historical Society in 2002 from Historic Williamsburg, where one of the mills exists.

Society members planned to build it. They quickly realized, however, they needed help and called in the Timber Framers Guild at a cost of $10,000 to construct it.

The mill is made of 35 tons of white oak, with the crown tree (center post) measuring 25 feet long. It supports the mill house and allows it to be turned into the wind.

New this spring at the museum is an educational program geared to fourth graders that emphasizes the history and importance of wind power. The program complies with Indiana educational standards yet is fun for people of all ages.

Joy Krug, a longtime educator and a member of the society board, says the program includes materials for before and after visit and hands-on activities while at the museum.

On Mother's Day on May 12, the museum will host the Hoosier Kite Fliers, who will be flying all sorts of kites and will be available to help kids build and fly a kite or fly one they have brought.

Classic cars will be scattered throughout the property on Father's Day on June 16.

nsfeatures@news-sentinel.com


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