In our continuing visits to sites within driving distance of Indianapolis, we come to the Mid-America Windmill Museum near Kendallville, one of the few such museums in the nation.
In 1866, the Flint & Walling Company started operations in Kendallville in Noble County. In 1878, the company obtained a patent on a wooden windmill named Original Star. Featuring white blades with red tips and red and blue stars on the vane, it soon became one of the most popular windmills on the Great Plains. Before discontinuing windmill production in the 1950s, Frost & Walling had produced 11 windmill models, sold around the world.
In 1985, Russell Baker, an engineer, moved to Kendallville to accept a position in a local foundry. Learning about the community’s participation in the development of windmills, he convinced the Kendallville Local Development Corp. to help him establish a museum recognizing both the windmill history of Kendallville and the history of windmills generally. In 1998, the Mid-America Windmill Museum opened on an 80-acre site east of Kendallville. When it opened, the museum included 10 restored and operating windmills, obtained within 150 miles of Kendallville.
Today, the museum has on display 52 water-pumping windmills in the museum barn and along an outdoor path, including all models produced by Flint & Walling. In June 2004, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor visited the museum to dedicate a windmill from her family’s Texas ranch. The museum also includes a full-size replica of the 52-foot diameter Robertson Post Windmill, erected near Jamestown, Va., in the 1620s. In 2001, the Kendallville Windmill and Historic Society, which operates the museum, dedicated Baker Hall, a 6,000-square-foot reception and banquet facility named for Russell Baker.
The Mid-America Windmill Museum is probably not worth a special trip to Kendallville, but if you are in the area, it is certainly worth a stop.