Alley Pond Park, New York City’s ninth largest park, is a scene from a fairytale: a charming picturesque park with the city’s oldest and tallest living tree, cattail ponds, miles of walking trails, fresh and salt water marshes, forests, and a meadow. Located in Douglaston, Queens, the park is home to more than 300 bird species and an environmental center helps visitors learn about New York’s colonial history, local wetlands, preservation, and more. But one of the most curious find is a historical Dutch windmill.
The original Douglaston Estate Windmill was built in 1870 and pumped water to a nearby farm. Windmills provided water and energy for farming communities, and the small Douglaston Estate Windmill, estimated to be 25 feet high, did the same. At its foundation, the windmill had a hand-dug rock-lined well and a stone rough for water storage and animal husbandry.
Windmill Pond as of June 2019
As the borough’s population increased in the 1900s, the mechanical components of the windmill were removed so that the original windmill could become solely a residential two-room house. So, someone actually lived in a windmill when it was located on Douglaston Manor! In the 1980s, as residential development continued apace, local activists campaigned to save the windmill from demolition. On November 17, 1986 the windmill was moved from Douglaston Manor to the Alley Pond Environmental Center along Northern Boulevard, but in 1988 the original windmill was destroyed by arson. Luckily, the windmill was insured so a replica could be built.
The old-fashioned Douglaston Estate Windmill (a facsimile) is symbolic of Holland and recalls New York’s Dutch history as New Amsterdam. The Dutch settlers founded Niew-Nederland in 1625 on the island of Manna-hata, which meant “island of many hills” to the Native Americans, but there were settlements in both Brooklyn and Queens as well. The settlers used windmills for farming and pumping water.
Alley Pond Park
The working replica of the original windmill pumps fresh water from the ground for the park to use and it also oftentimes houses a colony of bats. The windmill is 40-feet tall windmill with a 10-foot-wide wheel. It pumps water at 18-20 MPH at 26 strokes per minute from a 55-foot-deep well via 300 feet of pipe into the Windmill Pond, a man-made freshwater pond located on the northern part of Alley Pond Park. Native species such as American bullfrogs, salamanders, rabbits, dragonflies, and blue iguanas live on the pond, and the moving water from the windmill helps tame the mosquito population.
Windmill Pond and the windmill are accessible from the Alley Pond Environmental Center located at 228-06 Northern Boulevard.
You can discover more Dutch New Amsterdam in our upcoming, The Remnants of Dutch New Amsterdam walking tour:
BONUS: Guess what? Besides a charming Dutch windmill, The Oldest tree in New York is also found in Alley Pond Park. Check out this article: This is the Oldest and Tallest Tree in NYC: The Queens Giant In Alley Pond Park.