Aerial view of Windmill Island
Windmill Island (Michigan)
|Area||36 acres (15 ha)|
Windmill Island Gardens is a municipal park located in the city of Holland, Michigan. It is home to the 251-year-old windmill De Zwaan, the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the United States.
In the early years, the Nelis family grew vegetables to sell locally and also made frequent trips to the Chicago produce markets. During the depression the family decided to switch from growing vegetables to the nursery business. A cousin in the Netherlands asked the family to plant daffodils since he had run out of planting space in the "old country." That arrangement dramatically changed life for the Nelis family. They grew daffodils for a few years, but soon added crops of tulips. By the late 1930s, the family's tulip farm had become a "hot spot" for tourists flocking to Holland for the new Tulip Time Festival. The Nelis family decided to bring Dutch culture to Holland Michigan. In addition to Windmill Island, the Nelis' have a Dutch themed park named Dutch Village and tulip gardens for tourists to visit.
In 1964, the City of Holland purchased the windmill De Zwaan from a retired miller in the town of Vinkel in the province of Noord Brabant, the Netherlands. The windmill was shipped from the Netherlands to the port of Muskegon, Michigan on the ship Prins Willem van Oranje. It was brought by truck from Muskegon to its present location on Windmill Island. Reconstruction of the mill began in 1964 and the park opened in April 1965. The island, formerly farmed by Henry F. Koop, was chosen because of the favorable wind conditions there. Although originally a peninsula, a manmade canal turned the land into an artificial island. Before the arrival of De Zwaan, it was known as Hyma Island.
On April 10, 1965, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands became the first visitor to the park and presided over the grand opening. His ticket and the ten guilder bill he used to purchase it are still on display in the park today.
Windmill Island today
The park includes approximately 36 acres (15 ha) of land along the Macatawa River and the swamp leading into Lake Macatawa.
Each year Windmill Island hosts approximately 55,000 tourists. The park is open daily from late April until early October, with the most visitors in early May during the Tulip Time Festival. 150,000 tulips are planted on the island each year. In addition to the windmill, the park includes replicas of several historic buildings in the Netherlands. In the summer months, visitors may also see the klompen dance, traditionally performed by local high school students during the annual Tulip Time Festival.
After Tulip Time season, tourists continue to enjoy the Island's attractions, and the park frequently hosts weddings and events. The Island's celebration pavilion can seat up to 300 people. Wedding ceremonies are typically held outside the park or in the Island's gardens, with receptions and banquets taking place in the pavilion.