Under construction: Davidson Windmill preservation enters second phase
Work to restore the Douglas County landmark began in December.
LAKESIDE — A second round of preservation work kicked off this week at the Davidson Windmill.
The Douglas County landmark, which began operating in 1904, sits along Wisconsin Highway 13 in the town of Lakeside. In December, a crew from Stack Brothers Inc. dealt with rotten upright timbers inside the structure and built a wooden frame around it.
This week, carpenter Wyatt Nevin and foreman Kirk Prince cut off bolt ends and covered the wooden skeleton with treated plywood sheets. They said the next step will be adding Tyvek and putting white aluminum siding on the outside of the structure.
For Nevin, who lives in Poplar, the work is close to home. He’s driven by the windmill many times, but had never been inside until December.
“The first day I was just amazed. I was crawling around inside,” Nevin said.
He was involved in replacing the bottom of three rotten beams and bolting the frame on. When the aluminum comes, the carpenter said, they’ll use trial and error to determine the best way to deal with corners — cutting or bending the metal.
Being part of the team to preserve the windmill, he said, is “super cool.”
“Hopefully when we’re done, it will last the rest of my lifetime and, if I ever have kids, the rest of their lifetime, too,” Nevin said.
Members of the Old-Brule Heritage Society, caretakers of the landmark, have collected roughly $36,000 in donations for the preservation work.
“It means a lot to a lot of people,” said Dennis Hill with the society. “More than I ever thought.”
More than 150 donors have sent in funds, he said, and the society has continued to receive between $200 to $500 weekly.
“Every little bit helps,” Hill said, because they have a long way to go.
These first two phases of the work — the framing, sheeting and aluminum — are expected to cost roughly $43,000. Hill said future work will include a new roof to ensure the structure is water tight and then they will replace the windmill’s 18-foot arms. Because it’s perched on the edge of a red clay hill, plans also call for moving the windmill 30 feet to the south and building a cement foundation for it to rest on.
Hill said it’s important to forge ahead with the project.
“If it’s half done, it could deteriorate further,” he said.
During the summer of 2022, society members discovered some of the upright beams — the eight large, vertical timbers 18 feet tall that run from the base of its structure to its top — were rotting. They called in experts from Stack Brothers for a closer look.
“The superintendent there told his partner, his foreman, he said ‘I can’t believe it’s still standing,’” according to Hill.
Although the Davidson Windmill was only in operation for 22 years, from 1904 to1926, Hill called it an engineering marvel. By June, the society will begin holding free tours at the site along Highway 13, which includes a number of historic buildings — the Eskolin log house, Erkkila sauna, Blueberry depot and the last wooden queen-post truss bridge left in Wisconsin.
How to help
Financial donations can be sent to Old-Brule Heritage Society, P.O. Box 24, Maple, WI 54854. Donors should specify that the gift is for the windmill.