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Windmill looms on the horizon of a Wisconsin ‘Dutch’ town

Greta Van Susteren a booster

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

LITTLE CHUTE, Wisconsin - A Dutch windmill could soon rise 10 stories and more than 100 feet above the skyline of a small Wisconsin village, even surpassing its current tallest structure which is the steeple of St. John's Roman Catholic church. The proposed windmill project, for which a fundraising campaign has been underway for some time, would be prominently visible for miles around, and become one of the true landmarks of the state’s Fox Cities. The windmill site would include an attached Visitor Center and Museum of the village’s Historical Society. The additional Dutch touch would be beautifully landscaped grounds with no shortage of Dutch tulips.

Guided by an extensive business plan, the fundraising campaign of Little Chute Windmill, Inc. to date has raised about $1.5 million of the $2.5 million needed for the village’s skyline-altering back-to-roots project. Conceived in 1995 by a Founding Committee of four (William Bons, Thomas DeBruin, Arthur Santkuyl and Russell Van Gompel), the current committee consists of eighteen members with honourary chairperson Fox News Channel TV personality Greta Van Susteren who is proud of her Little Chute and nearby Appleton (Dutch) roots.


The proposed windmill has been designed by Lucas Verbij of Hoogmalen, the Netherlands, whose windmills literally dot the globe. Little Chute’s as yet unnamed windmill will come from the same drawing board as Windmill De Liefde in Sakura City, Japan. De Liefde was built and shipped to Japan in the mid 1990s. The Dutch builder/designer was also involved in projects in Fulton, Illinois, Orange City, Iowa, Steinback, Manitoba, and in restoration and repair jobs in Holland, Michigan and the Golden Gate Park windmill in San Francisco, California, to name a few.

Nearly 160 years ago, in the spring of 1848, Little Chute, then a tiny frontier hamlet in the Wisconsin wilderness, was the home of Dutch Roman Catholic missionary Father Theodore J. Van den Broek who worked among the region’s native bands. It was the destination of three shiploads of mainly Southern Dutch Roman Catholic settlers. Father Van den Broek had founded the St. John's Parish there in 1836, laying the foundation for the community’s rich Dutch heritage. By 1899 the population had grown to over 900 residents, and the Village was officially incorporated.

Maturing dream

Over the decades since, Little Chute's identity remained tilted towards its Dutch-American roots (there was a continued trickle of new arrivals from Brabant and Limburg), even as it welcomed many other nationalities as well. In 1981, for the first time in perhaps a hundred years, an annual Dutch festival called a Kermis was celebrated in Little Chute, which is still going strong every year. Out of this annual event grew the idea to build an authentic Dutch windmill to foster and commemorate Little Chute's unique history.

The windmill dream had matured into a strong interest by the late 1990s when the initial committee was formed by a number of local citizens, led by former Village President Donald DeGroot. The group has secured a building site near the Village Hall and the Gerard H. Van Hoof Library and Civic Center.