Photograph, black and white, showing leaders of "Operation Windmill" ca. 1965. Left to right: Gerald Fairbanks (Manager of Windmill Island); Herb Holt (City manager); Carter Brown (Windmill Committee); Nelson Bosman (mayor of Holland); Henry S. Maentz (Windmill Committee); and Bill Wichers (Windmill Committee).
In August of 1961 Carter Brown, a resident of Holland, MI during the warmer months of the year, visited Willard “Bill” Wichers. Wichers was at that time director of both the Netherlands Museum and the Mid-west branch of the Netherlands Information Service, both located in Holland, MI.
Carter shared with Bill his dream of commemorating the Dutch heritage and suggested Holland acquire an authentic windmill from the Netherlands. “Operation Windmill” began on October 3, 1961. The biggest challenge to the plan was convincing the Netherlands government to part with one of their windmills.
Bill Wichers took the first of three trips to the Netherlands in March of 1962. He would eventually look over 24 windmills. Meanwhile, Netherlands officials sent architect and windmill authority A.J. de Koning to Holland, MI in July of 1962 to see if there was a proper site for a windmill.
In June of 1964 Bill left on his final trip to the Netherlands. By June 11 a windmill had been found near the town of Vinkel, Noord Brabant in the southern part of the Netherlands.
De Zwaan (the Swan) was the name of the windmill. It was originally built in 1761 at another location before moving to Vinkel ca. 1889. It is stated on the historical marker that De Zwaan was built using pieces from older mills. The mill had also been damaged during World War II and had deteriorated.
The City of Holland paid $2,800 to buy the windmill, which would become the last windmill permitted to leave the country. The city council, led by Mayor Nelson Bosman, sold $450,000 in bonds to finance “Operation Windmill.”
Dutch millwrights began to dismantle De Zwaan in 1964. They carefully removed the structure beam by beam, labeling everything, and loaded the seventy tons of windmill and windmill parts onto the Dutch freighter Prins Willem van Oranje. The ship arrived in Muskegon, MI in October 1964. It was then loaded onto several trucks and moved to Windmill Island.
Dutch millwright Jan Medendorp supervised local craftsmen. They rebuilt the mill during the winter months, in time for its dedication during Tulip Time on April 10, 1965. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Michigan Governor George Romney participated in the ceremonies.
Gift ofWichers, Willard "Bill"