The Mid-American Windmill Museum is an unique destination set on preserving the legacy of the classic American windmill. Used mainly as water pumps, these windmills were found on most farms across the Midwest by the turn of the 20th century. The museum preserves an important part of rural American history and is an eye opener to an often overlooked, but iconic, part of the Midwest landscape. Located in Kendallville, Indiana, it is a short hop off I-69 and only 30 miles from Fort Wayne.
The American Windmill
Windmills and water wheels have been around in various forms for the past few thousands years. From massive water pumping contraptions to solidly built grist mills along rivers, they have made life easier; especially for farmers. First introduced in the 1850s, the classic American windmill quickly became a fixture on farms across the Midwest and Plains states. The simple towers were used mainly for pumping water, which was essential for the westward expansion across the Midwest; especially the Great Plains. Larger models were also used for sawing wood, powering small grist mills, and other mechanical tasks. The original windmills were mainly wood construction with steel fan blades adding strength and durability by the 1880s. Windmill usage peaked around the 1930s with roughly 600,000 units in operation.
Most of the American windmills we see on farms are now antiques; slowly rusting away. However, the classic wind driven water pumps are still in use in remote areas where access to fresh water is vital. The Mid-America Windmill Museum has dozens on display. Though it is an old technology, the windmill is not obsolete yet. Today, we are seeing massive new wind turbines providing electricity across the country as well as small models used on boats and in remote areas.
Mid-America Windmill Museum Collection
The Mid-American Windmill Museum has an impressive collection of over fifty windmills from various time periods and manufacturers across the Midwest. There are two main areas to explore; the barn museum and outdoor displays. Visitors begin with a ten minute film about the importance of windmills. The film is an older Bill Nye type production, but does not feel outdated and is quite impressive for a small, independent museum.
After the film, guests can wander through the indoor collection housed in an old barn. The large barn dates back to the 1880s and was completely dismantled and rebuilt on the museum grounds. Inside are several examples of old wooden windmill fans and various mechanical parts, such as gear assemblies. There are some hands-on displays and dioramas, but there could be a few more informative displays. I would love to see them partner with one of the large utilities or manufacturers of the new electric turbines; especially with the massive wind farms I’ve seen in the Kokomo and Winchester regions.
Outside is the real draw of the museum: dozens of windmills. Paths lead visitors through the field of windmills with plaques detailing the year, type, and manufacturer. You never realize just how many minor variations there are for something which was so common. Like automobiles, the various windmills had sleek model names and their tails were adorned with manufacturer and city names. It was a slightly windy summer day when I visited and the gentle noise of the windmills spinning away was relaxing. Overall, I was impressed with the collection and displays for a small museum.
Mid-America Windmill Museum Location and Hours
- The Mid-America Windmill Museum is located at 732 S. Chapel Road, Kendallville, Indiana 46755.
- Admission is only $5 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors.
- The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday April through November. Check their website for the most current hours.