This prominent and authentic landmark does not belong to the Dutch, but sits along the bank of northern Illinois’ Fox River.
The 68-foot, 5-story mill was originally constructed in the 1850s by German craftsman Louis Blackhaus, about 20 miles from its current location in Geneva, IL for a total of $900. The mill was built from a kit which was shipped to the Midwest and assembled on site. Following several changes of ownership and continued use, the windmill had its sails damaged by a storm in 1912, prompting the owner to look for a buyer.
The windmill was then purchased by wealthy Geneva resident Colonel George Fabyan in 1914 for $8,000. His motive for purchasing the damaged mill remains unknown. Fabyan spent more than a year and a half and nearly $100,000 to have the windmill moved to its current location along the Fox River, a move completed through a painstaking process of deconstruction and reassembly. He also made modernizations while the mill was moved, including a new foundation, creating a basement level.
This additional level brought the mill’s total to six floors, the tallest in Illinois. He made more alterations over the years, adding windows to the fourth floor and interspersing iron into some of the wooden components. Upon the death of the Colonel in 1936 and that of his wife two years later, the entire estate was sold to the Kane County Forest Preserve.
The windmill immediately became a popular tourist attraction, cited as the most photographed structure in the region. The mill was open to the public and regularly had tours; remarkably the mill stayed in good condition for a long period of time. By 1990, the building was deemed structurally unsafe for public inspection. A group of activists fought to keep the mill intact, and the Forest Preserve District eventually hired Lucas Verbij, a world-renowned third-generation Dutch millwright, to restore and renovate the mill. After a lengthy and expensive process, the windmill had a grand reopening in June 2005.
The windmill now largely resembles its appearance during Fabyan’s ownership, with modern amenities such as fire alarms and flood lights. It is visible from a popular local running path and its slope is a very popular sledding locale during wintertime, referred to locally as ‘windmill hill.’
Know Before You Go
Located immediately west of Crissey Ave. (Rte. 25) between Route 38 and Fabyan Parkway. Visible from road. Small parking area near windmill.