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Windmill History

Elk Horn's Danish windmill was built in 1848 in Norre Snede, Denmark. This mill and others like it in Denmark and throughout Europe were used to grind grain into flour for farmers in neighboring communities.

Unfortunately the vast majority of mills of this kind (called a smock mill) are deteriorating throughout Europe. This is because technology has come up with more efficient ways to grind grain, and windmills such as this are commonplace in Europe.

Because of the deterioration of mills in Europe and especially Denmark, Harvey Sornson thought that Elk Horn should bring a Danish Windmill to Iowa. He chose Elk Horn because it has one of the largest concentrations of Danes in the United States. He also thought that it would be a great way to celebrate our country's bicentennial, and would help keep a small town from dying.

It was a "crazy idea," but many local people soon supported it.  A town meeting was held and in a few days, $30,000 had been raised.  It seems these Danes were not as "tight" as people often accused them of being.

Pictured here is the 2000 lb.
windmill grindstone

While Harvey and the other interested citizens were out trying to raise more money, a carpenter in Denmark was beginning to dismantle the windmill in Norre Snede. 

In order for us to know how to reassemble the mill, this Danish carpenter built a scale model of the windmill that had a piece which represented each timber in the 60 ft. mill.  All of the beams in the 60 ft. mill and it's 6 ft. cousin were numbered so that all we had to do was put the pieces of the puzzle back into the correct spots.

On February 4, 1976 the pieces of the mill arrived from Denmark.   The reconstruction project was long and tedious.  Over 300 volunteers showed their support for this project by lending a hand in the work.  Because of this support, no hired help was required. 

Store Picture
Danish Windmill
Iowa Welcome Center

Some of the beams had become rotten from over 120 years of exposure to Denmark's ever changing climate and had to be replaced.  The cost of replacing those beams along with the cost of the crane work made the project of buying the windmill, having it taken down, shipping it to Elk Horn, and reconstructing it worth nearly $100,000, and that was in 1976!

Mill Story Exhibit Panel - PDF File

Moving & Reassembling the Norre Snede Windmill - PDF File

Re-creating the Norre Snede Windmill - PDF File

Danish Windmill
Iowa Welcome Center

Now Elk Horn is host to the only authentic, working, Danish windmill in America.  Shortly after this one was moved, a law was passed in Denmark stating that no more mills were allowed out of the country. 

In the 30 years that Elk Horn has enjoyed this mill, it has become one of the most popular and successful tourist attractions in Iowa.  Due in part to its location just a few miles north of interstate 80, and the fact that it is now an official Iowa Welcome Center. 

See Windmill Diagram

For more information on the mill or its products see the on-line catalog that the gift shop puts out. Or better yet, come see us!  We are open every day of the year except Christmas and New Years Day.  We would be happy to give you a tour, and it costs only $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children under 12
(Pre-schoolers are free). 

If you have any questions feel free to contact us:

The Danish Windmill Corporation
 e-mail us:

Keep the Mill Turning Donation Link

Contact Info |

The Danish Windmill

P.O. Box 245, 4038 Main
Elk Horn, Iowa 51531
(712) 764-7472