|My Alphabe Thursday theme: Places I've Been|
Back in March, the Husband and I stumbled upon an amazing landmark in Salinas, California, of which I think many people in our area are unaware. Standing on top of a historic mill on the Harden Estate in North Salinas was a Victorian mechanical wonder known as the Challenge Double Header Wind Engine. It's considered the only surviving windmill of its kind.
The Challenge Double Header Wind Engine was built in 1892 by Salinas Valley pioneer grain farmer and dairyman Duncan McKinnon. Back then, many called the machine's design a "masterpiece in Victorian engineering". The wind engine has two 30-foot wind wheels that rotate in opposite directions. It also has two smaller wheels which rotate the wind engine so that it faces the wind.
McKinnon decided to build the wind engine after seeing an advertisement. The man had vision. He used the wind engine to power his mill, a water pump, blacksmith shop, and carpentry shop. One source says that the wind engine was used until 1906 when electricity became available in the area. Another source says that the mill operation stopped around World War I.
Nobody operated the windmill until 2006 when it was restored by the Harden Foundation, which is based on the Harden Estate (originally McKinnon's property). The windmill is closed to the public, but people wishing to see it can make arrangements to tour it by contacting the Harden Foundation. The Husband and I happened to be in luck that Spring afternoon. Joe Grainger, Executive Director of the Harden Foundation, generously gave us a tour of the inside of the mill.
The story of the restoration is amazing as well. In 2004, the wind engine was removed from the top of the mill and traveled across country to Bridgewater, Virginia where the restoration took place. To read about the restoration project, click here.
I was astounded when I first looked up at the wind engine. I didn't think it was a windmill. Nope. Not at all. It reminded me of a Ferris Wheel, a clipper ship, and what I imagine Jule Verne's time machine ought to look like. I wonder what John Steinbeck thought of it. What would you think it is if you didn't know it was a windmill?
A day late is better than not at all. To check out other posts of, or to participate in, Alphabe Thursday, hosted by the lovely Jenny Matlock, click here.