THE AMERICAN WINDMILL MUSEUM
The mission of the American Windmill Museum as an educational organization is to help diverse audiences explore the ways in which people have used and continue to use their human ingenuity in harnessing the wind to live in varied environments.
In the mid-sixties, Billie Wolfe, a faculty member of Texas Tech’s College of Home Economics, taught courses in Housing Design for Family Living. Supporting documents for those classes included photographs of farm and ranch structures where usually the remains of a well-used windmills was in the background. She realized that the windmills in those pictures were rapidly disappearing and they became the focus of her interest.
During the following 30 years, Ms. Wolfe traveled throughout the country, searching for windmills and interviewing the farmers and ranchers who owned them. In 1992, Ms. Wolfe learned of an unusual collection of restored windmills in Nebraska that was for sale. She visited the owner in Mitchell, Nebraska who had a premier collection of early American windmills. Terms were negotiated and a payment made for his entire collection.
In the summer of 1993, Ms. Wolfe met Coy Harris, a Lubbock native and CEO of Wind Engineering Corporation. Together, they established the American Windmill Museum as a non-profit organization. Harris, planned, arranged and moved the Hundley Collection to Lubbock which consisted of 48 windmills, 171 weights, 56 pumps and models then began the work to raise money for the balance of the purchase.
In early 1997, Ms. Wolfe passed away but her and Harris’s work was rewarded that summer by the City of Lubbock offering the windmill group a permanent home in an area of Mackenzie Park.
This 28 acre tract of rolling hills, (rolling for Lubbock) was ideal for the large number of windmills the organization owned at the time. The Scarborough-Linebery Foundation of Midland awarded a grant of over one million dollars to the museum and a 30,000 sq. ft. gallery building was built to house the rare windmills.
Windmills as large as 25 feet in diameter could be displayed indoors and by 2001, the windmill museum had the largest public collection of restored windmills in the world.
Coy Harris, as Executive Director, designed and supervised all the construction of the windmill museum as well as the restoration and continued acquisition of the museum’s collection of rare mills. During the period when the water pumping windmills were being acquired, Harris collected a number of early electric generating wind chargers, some dating to the 1920’s. The largest wind machine at the Museum is the 660KW Vestas Wind Turbine that was placed in service in 2005. It has a 154-foot diameter wheel and stands on a 165-foot tall tower. It is large enough to power the museum complex.
By 2015, the original building was full of windmills and a complementary 33,000 sq. ft. building was built and opened in 2016. Inside its spacious interior early wind turbines are exhibited that are interactive with visitors. The relationship between the railroads and windmills of the 1800’s is celebrated with a 6,600 sq. ft. model train layout where 3D printed windmills and custom built houses illustrate the interaction between the railroads and windmills. In a separate wing, a large collection of documented grinding mill stones give a historical summary of the first uses of windmills in America. Complementing these is a collection of miniature houses and model windmills.
The American Windmill Museum is internationally recognized as the place to visit for observing windmills and wind chargers, photographing groups of windmills and serving as the educational facility where the windmill’s heritage can be seen and heard.