JUST a few miles north of Frenchtown, right on the river, is Milford, NJ. Milford hasn’t quite found it’s tourist groove yet, but is on it’s way.
The main road branches here as you enter the town. If you turn left, you will come to yet another of the 50+ bridges that cross the Delaware. And if you follow Route 519 to the right, (north) that will lead all the way to Phillipsburg, at the confluence of the Lehigh River. Along the way, you’ll find one of the quirks that make the back roads so enjoyable.
In the course of research for this book, I’ve acquired quite a few guide books and travelogues, some very helpful, some not so much. In one of them I found an attraction that seemed to speak to me—a windmill museum, in of course, Holland (New Jersey). Provided with directions that seemed only slightly vague and a quick study of Google maps, I felt fairly confident. Not that many roads–rural area–there was probably some kind of signage for it–how hard could it be to find? I’m going to condense this for you. After several hours of tracking through the hilly countryside of Hunterdon County, back-tracking, fighting gnawing hunger pangs and the wicked urge to relieve myself with no Super Wawa or fast food chain in sight, I finally found a road sign that looked promising. And it took only a few more false turns, some well-worn oaths and there I was, staring at an authentic six story Dutch windmill that was…closed for business. And looked like it had been for a long time.
Two of the mills four arms were missing, severed by a storm some years back and it had a look of general neglect. There was also an old, weathered sign advertising “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Farm”. Obviously quite an enterprise at one time.
The windmill was the brainchild of Poul Jorgenson, a skilled engineer and toolmaker who spoke seven languages. Born in Denmark, he never forgot the kindness of a miller who allowed neighborhood children to sweep the mill’s floors for leftover flour during the harsh times of World War I when food was scarce. This experience prompted Jorgenson to build a real working mill to teach people about the industry. He traveled throughout many countries studying, sketching, measuring and photographing all types of milling operations so that he could incorporate the best features into his dream. After his retirement in 1965, Jorgenson began work on the mill, and along with his wife, May, built the entire structure by hand, using only the outside help of steel workers and masons. Incredibly, he and his wife were both in their sixties, carrying fieldstone and wrestling lumber up six flights of stairs to lay flooring. Not to mention being able to somehow install the one-ton millstone. They wound up with a working mill that could actually grind grain into flour, powered by the wind gathered by four sail arms 68 feet in length. The top or cap, could be rotated to meet the direction of the wind.
When completed they called their creation the Volendam Windmill Museum in honor of a town in Holland, and probably also because they were in Holland Township, NJ. Unfortunately, Poul Jorgenson died shortly after. But May carried on until 1993 when she passed away. Other family members continued but the attraction closed after the wind arms were damaged in 2007. There’s a certain sadness to the place, a broken and empty windmill sitting on a wind-swept hill.