Source: Sherman Publications

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The story behind that windmill

by CJ Carnacchio

April 13, 2011

Addison resident Richard Ludeman and the Dutch-style windmill he built back in 1987-88 near the intersection of Hosner Rd. and Fox Cove. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio.
For a guy with no Dutch ancestry whatsoever, Addison resident Richard Ludeman builds one heck of a windmill.

Although it looks like it's always been there, the Dutch-style windmill located near the intersection of Hosner Rd. and Fox Cove was actually built by Ludeman in 1987-88.

"A lot of people tell me it's a landmark out here," he said. "Most of the neighbors really like it because it's pretty."

Constructed from wood and fieldstone, the windmill is approximately 42 feet high with blades that are about 50 feet in diameter. They used to be about 60 feet, but Ludeman trimmed them.

"It's a nice statement about alternative energy," he said. "It's a little more of a romantic statement about the way they used power in the past and trying to keep that connection alive."

Ludeman decided to build it after visiting Windmill Island municipal park in Holland, Michigan. He modeled it after a windmill there called De Zwaan, which is Dutch for The Swan or Graceful Bird.

Originally constructed in Holland (Europe) in 1761, De Zwaan is the only authentic, working Dutch windmill in the United States.

The 125-foot windmill was brought to Michigan in 1964 and reconstructed as it had suffered heavy damage during World War II. De Zwaan has the distinction of being the last windmill to leave the Netherlands.

Seeing De Zwaan inspired Ludeman, who teaches eight-grade science at Almont Middle School.

"I came back and said I can build something similar to that," he said. "I've always liked the idea of renewable energy."

But Ludeman's windmill wasn't just some giant lawn ornament, it actually functioned and served a purpose. He installed a 20-inch stone mill inside it and used the power of the wind to grind corn into a coarse feed for his animals.

The wind energy it harnessed usually translated into about 12 to 15 horsepower. Ludeman had two teams of oxen he used to transport the corn to the windmill.

How's that for authentic?

"I used it for a few years," he said. "We had fun with the kids, but it was a lot of work."

Gradually, Ludeman stopped using the windmill, so it sat deteriorating for about 10-15 years.

Two years ago, the damage had gotten so bad, he had to make a decision let it go or try to save it.

He chose the latter and has since covered it with vinyl siding to protect the wood and re-shingled the cap (roof), which rotates to catch the wind from different directions.

This summer he plans to reconstruct and redeploy the sails to get the old gal crankin' again.

He's not quite sure if he'll use it to generate any power this time around. If he does, it will be of the mechanical variety, not electrical.

"It's too expensive to hook it up to a generator," Ludeman said.

Besides, generating electrical energy requires a certain number of revolutions per minute, which is easier to obtain through the sleek blades of a modern wind turbine as opposed to the graceful sails of an old Dutch windmill.

Ludeman indicated there's about 1,100-square-feet of livable space inside the windmill, so he's thinking about turning it into a studio where he can play his guitar and give music lessons.