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Help us Put a New Spin on this Old Mill

Danish Windmill Restoration Fundraising Appeal

What inspired the people of the little town of Elk Horn to raise $100,000 to help fulfill a man‘s –impossible dream to buy a Danish Windmill in 1975 and bring it to Iowa? Why did 300 farmers and townspeople from the communities of Elk Horn, Kimballton, Audubon, Harlan, Atlantic, Hamlin, Brayton, Poplar, and Jacksonville donate time and volunteer their labor to restore the mill? Was it pride in their Danish heritage? Desire to preserve their customs and traditions? Maybe as a legacy to leave for their children and grandchildren?

In a word, yes.

It‘s been 40 years since Harvey Sornson‘s – impossible dream became a reality. The 1848 Danish Windmill from Nørre Snede towers proudly above the rich fields of Iowa prairie, an ever– present reminder of our agricultural heritage and the land that was settled by our Danish ancestors.

The Mill has served generations of families over the span of its 167 years, from the field to the mill and from the mill to the table. Today, as an educational and historical museum, it is a unique and irreplaceable part of our culture and community. It is vital we take steps to ensure the Windmill‘s continued story.

With that in mind, we are reaching out to ask you to please consider supporting the Mill through a charitable donation or a contribution to the Danish Windmill Endowment Fund. Both offer great tax incentives to you and your gift will help to strengthen the Mill‘s financial reserves in order to fund its historic preservation needs today and help sustain it in the years to come.

Current Restoration Needs | Your Donation Will Help | What needs to be repaired | Ben Hassett

Fun Fact: You can read the newspaper clipping from 1976 by clicking here!

Current Restoration Need:
To Put a New Spin on this
Old Mill

Help us Start the Mill Turning Again...Now There is a need to make some immediate repairs to the Windmill because it has not been turning for more than a year.

Summer‘s extreme heat, followed by a harsh Iowa winter, took a serious toll on the Mill. It shifted the mechanical structure of its sails and the brackets that hold the shutters bringing the mill to a standstill for safety reasons.

The Mill is a very old machine and we needed a millwright with expertise in historic restoration and preservation to get it turning again. We reached out to world-renowned Danish and American historic mill experts that we have relied on to perform similar work over the years such as the initial maintenance plan, blueprints and rebuilding of the Mill‘s cap frame in 1995.

In August 2015 their Danish machinist came and spent 3 days on the Mill. In addition to working on the iron gearing and adjusting the fan tail mechanism he also found rot in some of the timbers of the 67 foot long sails. He prepared a report for the Danish millwrights based on his inspection.

The American millwright, Ben Hassett, who we planned would do the work, was not able to fit us into his busy schedule until April 2016. Hassett, who is a Council Bluffs native, worked on our project in 1995 as the millwright‘s apprentice and is now owner of B.E.Hassett–Millwrights, Inc.

He came to Elk Horn and inspected the Mill on April 25-26, 2016 and concurred with the Danish inspection report. He submitted a conditions report, work plan and estimated cost for the repairs. The time for performance is four months from commencement of the project.

Based on consulting with them we determined that the project would consist of two phases–1) inspection and assessment of damage and 2) making the repairs. We have completed Phase 1 and are ready to move to Phase 2 with your help.

Restoration is Needed!

Your donation will help restore the historic 1848 Danish Windmill so it can start turning again and get back to the daily grind of being a working Mill.

Replacement Timbers for Sails & Wind Shaft • Repair Brake Wheel
Fan Tail Repair • Replace Friction Drive Pulley for Sack Hoist

Our goal is to raise $200,000

Detailed Summary of Repairs

Sails The sails date back to the Windmill‘s arrival in Elk horn forty years ago. They've been repaired and patched in the past but now need to be replaced due to wood rot in the polls near the hub.

Wind Shaft The existing wind shaft has been repaired / patched at critical areas in the past. Knowing that at some point it would need to be replaced, we purchased the timber and had it tapered and bored to be ready when it was needed and that time is now.

Brake Wheel This is the big gear in the cap that is mounted to the wind shaft and is the primary drive for all the mechanics in the mill. The arms of this gear are rotten and need to be replaced.

Cap and Frame The Cap frame was replaced in 1995 and its interior timbers are still in very good condition. Most of the exterior timbers look in decent condition though a few have areas that are going to require rot treatment and repair. This will require partial dismantling of the fantail drive components to accomplish.

Friction Drive for Sack Hoist Located beneath the curb level of the tower is the friction drive for the hoist mechanism. This drive mounts to the vertically shaft and provides power for the hoist mechanism. The pulley has long suffered from rot and decay, likely dating back to its origins in Denmark. The friction pulley is decayed beyond the point of being salvageable so it will be replaced and the old mechanism can be put on display in the museum.

About Ben Hassett

A native of Iowa, Ben Hassett began his career with an apprenticeship from British wheelwright expert Derek Ogden. It was during his apprenticeship that he came to work on the Danish Windmill cap frame replacement project in 1995.

Hassett says that when he was working for Derek, he knew that was what he wanted to do. He stayed with Derek for four years then began his own company. Hassett Millwrights is one of a very few companies that do what they do in the U.S. and that is, to work on genuine mills.

B.E. Hassett-Millwrights is a full service, traditional Millwrighting company serving as a resource for repair, maintenance, restoration and reconstruction of Wind and Water powered agricultural and early industrial historical sites.

His experience ranges from maintenance and millstone dressing, to reconstruction of period machinery and gear trains, to major structural repairs.

Some of his projects include:

  • Reconstructed Flowerdew Windmill in Hopewell, Virginia; relocated to American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, Texas (Flowerdew Hundred Plantation is the site of the oldest windmill in the US)
  • Colonial Williamsburg, post windmill, Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • Wolf Pen Branch Mill. Reconstructed water mill, Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Evans-Mumbower Mill. Gear for water mill, Ambler, Pennsylvania.
  • Rock Mill. 26 foot water wheel, Lancaster, Ohio.


2015 Harry H. Mellon Award of Excellence in Job Order Contracting for Colvin Run Mill, Great Falls, VA

2014 Ida Lee Willis Memorial Foundation Preservation Project Award for Wolf Pen Branch Mill, Sallie Bingham, Louisville, KY

2014 Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission, Historic Preservation Award, Certificate of Merit for Lockes Mill, Jon and VA

2013 Napa County Landmarks, Award of Merit for Bale Grist Mill, Napa Valley State Parks CA

2012 Governor's Historic Preservation Award for Bale Grist Mill, Napa Valley State Parks Association, Saint Helena, CA

2007 California Preservation Design Award for Challenge Double Header Wind-Engine, Harden Foundation, Salinas, CA

Danish Windmill Restoration Project Overview

Phase 1 (Completed)

Inspection and Assessment of Damage

The project consists of two phases

  • Inspection and assessment of damage
  • Making the repairs

World-renowned Danish historic mill expert, Lise Andersen, and millwright, Michael Jensen planned to come to Elk Horn to address the repairs and while here present an historic mill maintenance seminar. This will help us better understand how to strategically plan for the Mill‘s preservation needs. Due to travel complications, they were not able to make the trip.

Repair and Restoration Ben Hassett has extensive knowledge of mills and completed many historic mill restorations across the country.

He is highly regarded for his craftsmanship and expertise in the techniques used in constructing and restoring old mills. In 2015 he received the Harry H. Mellon Award of Excellence in Job Order Contracting for Colvin Run Mill, Great Falls, Virginia.

Hassett will carry out repairs and restoration work of the windmill, with a view to repair instead of replace, in order to preserve as much of the original fabric of the structure and machinery as possible.

Phase 2

Making the Repairs

The aim of repair is to retain and maintain as much as possible of the existing structure and machinery in order to preserve the historical and technical integrity of the mill.

Where replacement of any part is deemed necessary, the replacement will be carried out using appropriate and comparable materials. If possible the original part will be used as a pattern, so that the design of new parts is in keeping with local tradition and practice.

Old parts removed and replaced may be preserved as part of the museum because of their historical or technical interest. Since the goal is for the Mill to work, we’ll make sure that the machinery is set up to run as smoothly, efficiently and safely as possible.

We promote the museum as a –working–example of life in an earlier time‖. Our goal is to repair the mill so it can be turning in the wind again.

Project Needs

volunteers, cash & in–kind support

  • Equipment Rental
  • Boom truck
  • Trucking the mill parts to and from Hassett‘s workshop in Kentucky
  • Travel expenses for millwrights – transportation, lodging, food, etc.
  • Supplies –from specialty lubrications to new timbers

Keep the Mill Turning Donation Link

Contact Info |

The Danish Windmill

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

40 Years of Danish Windmill
Celebrate 40 Years


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Donate Today

We would welcome a gift of any amount. You can send us a check, make a donation through our website, or contribute to the Danish Windmill Endowment Fund. Proceeds from the online store and gift shop purchases also support the programs and upkeep of the Windmill Museum.

The Mill is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. GuideStar® ( provides data for potential donors to research the Mill's public records and non-profit reports. We are listed on the website as DANISH MILL CORP AKA Danish Windmill.

Here options from which to choose to make charitable donations to the Danish Windmill:

Website: Make a Donation

By Mail:
Danish Windmill Corporation
PO Box 245
4038 Main Street
Elk Horn, IA 51531-0245 USA