Rooster and I included Windmill Island Gardens as one of our stops on our trip to Holland, Michigan. Many of the attractions remained closed due to COVID-19. We strongly recommend delaying visiting this attraction until after the world starts operating somewhere in the normal range.
After we paid the entrance fee, we started our walk down the path that led to the windmill. This wasn’t our first visit to De Zwaan. We had a wonderful weekend in Holland several years ago. Back then, the door of the windmill stood wide open. A tour guide showed us through the interior of the genuine Dutch windmill, explaining its history and how it operated to grind out the flour, cornmeal, and grits. Indeed, the windmill is fully functional. After our tour, Dutch dancing took place near the windmill. The participants dressed in traditional Dutch attire put on a great show.
The windmill remained closed
On this visit, the doors leading into the interior of the windmill remained closed. We could hear the Amsterdam Street organ fire up across the bridge, but the closed windmill left us without entertainment. Rooster and I sat down on a bench to rest and figure out a new game plan. The beautiful surroundings created a sense of peace, so we lingered for a short time on the seat and enjoyed the cool breeze coming off the water in the tiny canal.
A Brief History of De Zwaan
The 250-year old working windmill looked deserted as it stood against the bright afternoon sky. It almost seemed to have a longing for someone to put its inner workings into motion. The massive structure stands 125 feet tall from its bottom to its top.
“The Swan,” originally built in the Netherlands in 1761, is a tribute to the Dutch heritage of the early settlers in Holland, Michigan. After World War II, the Dutch government prohibited the sale of windmills because many of them became damaged during the war. The government wanted to preserve the ones that remained. The residents of Holland, Michigan, had a vision. They wanted to create an island in the middle of their city devoted to their Dutch heritage, with a windmill as the central feature.
Negotiations with the Dutch government began, and in the spring of 1965, “the Swan” took a trip across the ocean. The massive windmill was set up in the middle of a 36-acre garden with dikes, a canal, and a picnic area.
Exploration of Windmill Island Gardens
We decided to travel back across the bridge in search of amusement. The Amsterdam street organ played in the background as we strolled along the path to the Post House. The ancient-looking building is a replica of a 14th Century wayside inn.
Unfortunately, the inn remained closed due to COVID-19. I wanted to see this aspect of Windmill Island because we missed it on our last visit. We did manage to find several gift shops open in the small Dutch Village. These shops sold a wide assortment of trinkets and souvenirs
The best part of our visit this time was the magnificent gardens on the tiny island. During the Tulip Times Festival, it is rumored there are thousands of tulips on this small piece of ground. During our visit, annuals spread out over the entire area in a colorful display. Indeed, the whole community of Holland, Michigan, sometimes appears to be a giant flower garden. Brilliant floral displays and metal sculptures seem to be the signature feature of this city on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Windmill Island Gardens is a fantastic place to visit when COVID-19 restrictions aren’t being applied. The gardens are a feast for the eyes. The windmill looks like a graceful swan as the blades turn against a bright summer sky. It’s worth the price of admission to watch the Dutch dancers spin around wearing those wooden shoes on their feet. You won’t experience what Windmill Island Gardens has to offer during all the COVID-19 restrictions.
Rooster and I found this trip to Windmill Island less than satisfying. Therefore, we didn’t stick around very long. I almost decided not to write about our time spent there because I knew this trip didn’t reflect what this tribute to Dutch culture has to offer. Still, Windmill Island Gardens is an important part of the Holland experience. I highly recommend waiting for the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted before you make your visit. You will be glad you did.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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