City spinning its wheels on GG Park windmill

The blades of Golden Gate Park’s 105-year-old windmill are gathering dust in the Netherlands as the hired contractor refuses to fix them until The City pays him for work he has already done.

The restoration of the Murphy Windmill, the younger of two at the west end of Golden Gate Park, has already stalled for more than two years because of problems with contractors — one of which has gone bankrupt. And now the work is not expected to be completed until at least the end of next year.

The windmill was built in 1905 and was initially used to pump water from its perch over Ocean Beach up to Stow Lake, where it was dispersed through the park’s irrigation system. During the next few decades, the irrigation system was replaced and the windmill slowly deteriorated into disrepair.

In 1993, the Recreation and Park Department hired a Dutch windmill expert to study the machine. He determined it needed immediate attention.

In 2002, The City finally hired San Francisco contractor Mark De Jong of Bloemendal Construction Co. to do the work on the windmill, and he subcontracted with Lucas Verbij of Verbij Windmill Design and Construction in the Netherlands for some of the work, according to Rec and Park Project Manager Dan Mauer.

The project was first delayed after fundraising for the work wasn’t as fruitful as anticipated. It then met more challenges when Bloemendal ran into financial difficulties and folded last year.

Meanwhile, the subcontractor in the Netherlands had completed his portion of the work on the windmill’s cap, but he said he was never paid the $200,000 or so that Bloemendal owed him for the work.

Meanwhile, Verbij also has the sail stocks and frames for the windmill blades and is “ready, able and willing to complete the windmill restoration work, but will not do so unless and until it receives payments” for the work already completed.

So even though The City already paid for the work — to Bloemendal — this week the Recreation and Park Commission will consider paying for it again so the work on the blades can finally be complete, Mauer said.

Once that work is finally completed, The City still needs to find someone to restore the old pumps and install a water cistern. Then the windmill will be spinning once again, Mauer said.

At this point, that might not be until the end of next year.

“Although the economy and unforeseen circumstances weren’t particularly kind to this project, we’re excited to be able to move forward and complete this next phase of the restoration,” Rec and Park spokesman Elton Pon said.

 

Round and round

1902: Dutch Windmill (north) is completed for $25,000
1905: Murphy Windmill (south) is completed for $20,000; largest windmill of its kind in the world
1913: Motor is installed to augment wind-driven system; because windmills are no longer performing their primary function, maintenance is neglected and they stop operating
1980: Dutch Windmill receives cosmetic repairs and Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden is created
1993: Rec and Park brings in Dutch windmill design expert to study Murphy Windmill; it's determined that it needs immediate attention
2002: Cap of Murphy Windmill is shipped to Netherlands for restoration
November 2009: Murphy Windmill contractor goes into bankruptcy and The City ends contract
October 2010: New contract may be granted for some work on Murphy Windmill
2011: Work may be completed on Murphy Windmill

kworth@sfexaminer.com

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