The history of windmills in Illinois can be traced back to the late 19th century. Windmills were in high demand to help Chicago rebuild after the Great Fire.

History of Windmills in Illinois

In the mid-1800s, settlers in Illinois began using small wooden windmills to pump water from wells for their farms and homes. These early windmills were made from wood.

By the late 1800s, advancements in steel manufacturing made it possible to build larger windmills that were more efficient.

The Great Chicago Fire

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire devastated the city and that's when demand for windmills grew to help in the rebuilding efforts. Windmills were used extensively to pump water and provide essential services during Chicago's reconstruction.

The latter half of the 1990s is when the use of windmills saw big declines, but that changed a couple of decades ago. There has been a resurgence of interest in wind power as a renewable energy source.

Iconic Illinois Windmills

The 4 windmills you'll see here are all Dutch-style windmills that were used primarily for grinding grain. A couple of windmills still allow people inside for tours so you can see some of the intricacies of the design.

The Prairie Mills Windmill, Golden, Illinois

The Prairie Mills Windmill is the only U.S.-built windmill operating with its original millstones and wood mechanism in downstate Illinois

Prairie Mills Windmill Golden Historical Society via Facebook
Prairie Mills Windmill Golden Historical Society via Facebook
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De Immigrant Windmill, Fulton Illinois

This Dutch-style windmill is on a flood-controlled dike on the Mississippi River in Fulton, Illinois. This is a newer windmill built and packaged in the Netherlands, then assembled by Dutch craftsmen.

Visit Fulton, Illinois via Facebook
Visit Fulton, Illinois via Facebook

Dwight Windmill, Dwight, Illinois

U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Company of Batavia, Illinois built the Dwight windmill. The well this windmill pumped from is over 800 feet deep.

Village of Dwight via Facebook
Village of Dwight via Facebook

Fabyan Windmill, Geneva, Illinois

This was my first trip inside a windmill. My wife and I took the tour inside the Fabyan windmill which was built in the 1850s. This windmill was used to grind wheat, buckwheat, and grain. On the tour, we learned that the wheat, grain, and buckwheat were used to feed George Fabyan's livestock and his pet bear. He also had installed an oven to bake bread on site.

Fabyan VIlla & Japanese Garden
loading... has more interesting facts about Illinois' windmill history and these 4 windmills.

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