Back October 5, 2021
Travel Blog

De Immigrant Windmill | Where authenticity & heritage meet

bwcvb BLOG fulton 4

You learn something new every day.

Settled on the banks of the Mississippi in 1835, Fulton’s past is rich in its river town history and Dutch heritage. The windmill, nicknamed De Immigrant, at 10th and First streets, pays homage to the town’s Dutch heritage.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, both the windmill and the Windmill Cultural Center attracted approximately 10,000 visitors a year. As with many public spaces last year, the windmill and the Windmill Cultural Center were closed the entire 2020 season.

Happily, both sites reopened–for weekends only–in June 2021. When visiting, bring your masks as they are required while in either building.

NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of the article to locate each visited venue’s contact information.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 3

Jane Orman Luker and her husband, Neal, provided my road trip buddy, Debbie, and me with a tour of the Windmill Cultural Center and the windmill. The husband and wife duo belong to Friends of the Windmill, the fundraising organization that accepts charitable donations on behalf of the windmill and Cultural Center.

Both entities run entirely with volunteer staff. About two dozen residents volunteer to help run the mill, and others give tours and work in the gift shop.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 5

Some background

The windmill’s presence is due, in part, to a severe flood in 1965. A Dutch-style levee–or flood control dike–was built in the 1980s to protect Fulton’s residential and commercial properties. It seemed appropriate to have a beautiful Dutch windmill atop it. Historic Dutch windmills cannot be legally exported from the Netherlands. This replica structure is based on those that dotted the Dutch landscape for centuries.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 6

The eight-sided windmill–standing nearly 100 feet tall–at the cost of $1 million–was purchased by the town, along with a state grant. An additional $200,000 bought the grinding apparatus that makes it a working windmill. Through fundraising efforts, the grinding stones were added and officially dedicated on May 5, 2001. This replica, at 30 metric tons, was engineered and pre-assembled in the Netherlands. It came to the United States by rail, truck, and ship.

Fulton’s Dutch windmill is a “beltmolen.” In Dutch, “belt” means mound of dirt, and “molen” means mill. This windmill, like most beltmolens, has an entrance at ground level.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 7

Time to put the pieces together

Following the delivery to Fulton in 1999, Dutch millwrights and masons traveled to the United States on three separate occasions and rebuilt the windmill in Fulton. Wooden pegs assemble the massive timbers.

Dedication of the new Dutch Windmill took place during its famous annual Dutch Days Festival on May 6, 2000.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 8

The windmill is fully operational. The entire head (or cap) can turn, and the sails move by wind power. The mill is also fully functional with a set of blue basalt millstones that can produce a variety of flours.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 10

Stone-ground buckwheat, corn, rye, and wheat flours are all manufactured at De Immigrant and sold in the Windmill Cultural Center gift shop and Fulton Meat Market. The gift shop also sells Delft pottery and both Fulton and windmill souvenirs.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 9

A stairway leads up into the windmill. Access to the windmill can also be reached by walkways on the top of the dike. The windmill is partially handicap accessible. The stones take up three floors with various types of machinery.

“Millers can grind about a bushel of grain every 10 minutes, wind permitting. “We need at least ten mph wind to run; 15 mph is even better,” Luker said.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 11

Across the street

The Windmill Cultural Center is directly across the street from De Immigrant Windmill. The Center houses Henk and June Hielema’s (of DeMotte, IN) extensive collection of 23 European windmills representing ten European countries, ranging from 10 inches to over six feet tall.

In the 1970s, while employed in Belgium, Henk and June photographed many of the country’s mills. There, he began building the models from blueprints of the lifesize mills. June did much of the models’ painting, finding new techniques to create slate or thatched roofs.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 12

After retiring, they moved to DeMotte, Indiana, June’s family farm, where he continued building his models. The Hielema’s collection outgrew their home bringing them to look for an appropriate venue to house the models. There were two conditions that every venue needed to meet. First, it had to have environmentally controlled heat and humidity systems. Second, the windmills could only be moved once. The building had to be in place and ready to go.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 13

Jane Orman Luker was happy to know Fulton was their top choice. “We had two problems. One, we didn’t have a building to use, and we didn’t have any money to build one,” she said. Henk replied that he knew that the Fulton volunteers raised the money needed for the grinding stones for the De Immigrant Windmill in just one year. “If you can commit to fundraising and writing grants, we will wait,” said Hielema.

The Fulton folks did it. The Lukers and volunteers are a force. With donations and grants, the City of Fulton was able to build the Windmill Cultural Center. The dedication took place in April of 2010.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 14

Before the pandemic, The Education Area of the Center featured video presentations of the windmills’ countries and an area that contained children’s activities, including coloring, puzzles, and toys promoting scientific concepts. The Center has interpretive exhibits that provide unique information on the products produced by each windmill model, its country of origin, windmill specifications, and the cultural impact of windmills. Hopefully, in 2022, school groups and group tours will have full access to this uniquely informative space.

Tours | Hours

Currently, visitors can enjoy tours on weekends only from May through October. “We’ve got our fingers crossed that in 2022 we will be fully open in both the windmill and cultural center,” Said Orman Luker.

The hours are Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 to 5 p.m.

Entrance to both venues is free, but donations are always appreciated for maintenance and operations.

Places to visit while in Fulton

After our tour, Debbie and I had worked up an appetite. Initially, we planned to visit Krumpets Bakery Cafe, located at 1016 4th St., as it was highly recommended, but for some reason, it was closed for the day. We will be back!

bwcvb BLOG fulton 15

No worries, Jane recommended the Steam Anchor at the edge of town at 1310 17th St. We enjoyed the delicious sandwiches and ice-cold beverages. Featured in our travel blog in 2018, it is thriving with a brisk lunch business.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 16

After our lunch, we decided to drop by a popular gift shop called Sweet Woodruff. Located at 1102 4th St., it was decked out in full-on autumnal glory. The inside, filled with beautiful home accessories, candles, purses, etc., is a shopper’s nirvana. With the holiday season fast approaching, consider adding Sweet Woodruff as a shopping destination. The holidays are coming, and I will be back.

bwcvb BLOG fulton 2 hc

Finally, before leaving town, we decided to visit Wierenga’s Heritage Canyon, located at 515 N 4th St. The canyon is a 12-acre wooded nature walk dotted with buildings that take you back to the 1800s.

From the mid-1800s-1954, it was a limestone quarry. Harold and Thelma Wierenga bought the quarry in 1967. They had two goals in mind–-preserve midwestern history emphasizing detail and authenticity, and disturb nature as little as possible. As the years passed and Harold’s death in 1999, the City of Fulton took ownership of the canyon and its upkeep. Now, the Early American Crafters, a group of volunteers, help support the canyon.

Enjoy strolling through the canyon following the numbered yellow arrows that guide you throughout your visit. It’s the perfect family outing exploring the schoolhouse, covered bridge, the Canyon Church, an 1860s house (disassembled and reassembled in the canyon), blacksmith shop, dentist office, and more. There is no admission fee–except for special events–but donations are welcomed.

Take a drive

Enjoy the drive into Fulton, especially during the fall. The winding country roads and farmland will put any anxious heart at ease. There are many other sites and businesses to explore. Maybe we’ll take another trip.

Contact information

City of Fulton
415 11th Ave.
Fulton, IL 61252
Phone: (815) 589-2616

 Krumpets Bakery Cafe
1016 4th St.
Fulton, IL 61252
Phone: 815-208-7143

Sweet Woodruff
1102 4th St.
Fulton, IL 61252
Phone:  815-589-2937

Wierenga’s Heritage Canyon
515 N 4th St.
ulton, IL 61252
Phone:  815-589-4600

🌞🎶 Ready for a weekend of fun in NW Illinois? Check out these events:

June 20: 🦅 𝗚𝗼𝗹𝗳 𝗖𝗮𝗿𝘁 𝗕𝗶𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗧𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀 & 🎸 𝗗𝗶𝘅𝗼𝗻'𝘀 𝗦𝘂𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝗦𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗿𝘁
June 21: 🎷 𝗠𝘂𝘀𝗶𝗰 𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗦𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗿𝗲 in Dixon & 🌊 𝗥𝗼𝗰𝗸 𝗙𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘀' 𝗦𝘂𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝗦𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘀𝗵 (continues on Saturday!  Grab your friends and family and join us for an unforgettable time! 🌟 

#VisitNWIllinois #enjoyillinois #middleofeverything @visitrockfalls @visitcarrollcountyil @visitleecountyil #WeekendPlans #SummerEvents @enjoyillinois
FB: Calling all #nature enthusiasts and #birding in #ThompsonIL, on a silent golf cart ride, spotting birds, plants, and flitting butterflies along the way!

The deets:
🦅Tours run from 8 AM to 10 AM, perfect for those morning birdies! ⏰ dates!)
Happening every 1st & 3rd Thursday + 3rd Saturday from Spring to late Summer (May - September)
🦅This is your chance to experience the refuge like never before—all for FREE! Don't miss out – register today! 
🦅Spots are limited (7 only!), so register ASAP! [Link in bio!] ➡️
🦅This is your chance to experience the refuge like never before – all for FREE! Don't miss out – register today!
🦅Happening every 1st & 3rd Thursday + 3rd Saturday from Spring to late Summer (May to September)

#birding #birdingtours #enjoyillinois #GolfCartBirding #WildlifeAdventure #FreeEvents  #GetOutside #VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything @enjoyillinois @visitcarrollcounty
This Father's Day, create special moments in NW Illinois. 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲 your adventures with us using #𝗙𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝘀𝗗𝗮𝘆𝗜𝗻𝗡𝗪𝗜𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗼𝗶𝘀!"

#VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything #enjoyillinois
Nothing beats freshly brewed coffee, locally made macaroons, or an iced drink on a hot Friday morning! ☕️✨ Check out @CoffeeCrushDixon for a cozy start to your day. 👉👉 𝗕𝗢𝗡𝗨𝗦: The annual nesting of Mama Duck on the property provided 16 ducklings this year! 

#LocalSpotlight #CoffeeLove #VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything #enjoyillinois #leecountyIL #discoverdixon #SupportLocal #CaféCulture #MorningBoost #NWILCoffee @discoverdixon @visitleecountyil @thenoblecakery
Here's a sneak peek of what's coming up this weekend in #NWillinois! Lots of art and music, plus a carnival to keep everyone happy. Go to our EVENTS CALENDAR at bio link for a complete listing of things to do.

#VisitNWillinois #middleofeverything @enjoyillinois #enjoyillinois @visitleecountyil @discoverdixon
Bring the kids to #FultonIL to see the amazing De Immigrant Windmill and explore Wierenga’s Heritage Canyon. History and heritage, NW Illinois has it all. 🌾🪨

 #VisitNWIllinois @VisitFulton @enjoyillinois #middleofeverything
It's #roadtrip adventure in 𝗪𝗵𝗶𝘁𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝘆! 🚗 Whether it's an invigorating paddle on the 𝗛𝗲𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗽𝗶𝗻 𝗖𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗹 🛶, finding antique treasures at 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘄𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 𝗔𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗾𝘂𝗲𝘀 & 𝗧𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝘂𝗿𝗲𝘀🏺, hitting the 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗥𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗕𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗶𝗹 all around #FultonIL 🚴‍♂️, or avoiding singed eyebrows when ordering the Forest Inn Restaurant & Lounge's Saganaki 🔥. #OPA! 🎉

#visitNWillinois #enjoyillinois #middleofeverything @visitrockfalls  @sterlingmainstreet  @visitfulton @enjoyillinois #whitesidecountyIL #paddling #SterlingIL #RockfallsIL
Let's show some #MidweekLove 🥰 in NW Illinois!  This week, tap into the beauty of art at the "𝗪𝗶𝗱𝗲 𝗢𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝗦𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗲𝘀 𝗔𝗿𝘁 𝗘𝘅𝗵𝗶𝗯𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻" opening June 11, or groove to the timeless tunes of 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗦𝗼𝗻𝘀, the ultimate CCR tribute band on June 12. Then, dive into the hometown charm of 𝗣𝗼𝗹𝗼 𝗧𝗼𝘄𝗻 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗿𝘆 𝗗𝗮𝘆𝘀  June 12-16, and wrap up with soulful beats at the 𝗦𝘂𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗿 𝗦𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝗖��𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗿𝘁 𝗦𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀  in Dixon on June 13. Don't miss out on these midweek gems! READ ABOUT the events 
 at EVENTS link found at bio link. 

#VisitNWIllinois #MidweekEvents #middleofeverything #enjoyillinois @whitepines_resort  @tnps_dixon #DixonMunicipalBand  #PoloTownandCountryDays @enjoyillinois


Request a free copy or view our latest guide online.


Ideas and resources to help plan your next real getaway in NW Illinois.