August 15, 2014
Finding the treasures in The Hope Chest and talking to my Mormor who lives at The Danish Home about the Danish culture has intrigued me, as you know. I had the chance to visit Elk Horn Iowa, where, with its sister community, Kimballton, live one of the largest concentration of Danes in the United States. As you can imagine, I jumped at the chance to make the trip.
Driving west from Des Moines Iowa on a lovely summer afternoon and passing by fields and farms along the nearly 100-mile journey was delightful and a peaceful reminder that I was in the heartland of America. Soon I passed a sign that said “Velkommen” with a Danish Flag flying atop the sign. The countryside reminded me of how Mormor has described Denmark with its abundance of farms, prairies and rolling hills.
I learned that the authentic windmill was from Norre Snede, Denmark and was built in 1848. The mill would grind grain into flour with its 2000-pound grindstone. Harvey Sornson arranged t
o bring the windmill to Elk Horn in 1974 because the windmills in Europe were quickly deteriorating and being replaced with new technology. Elk Horn was chosen because its Danish population was one of the largest concentrations in the United States with a population of 662 in 2010! He also believed that the windmill would be a great way to keep the little town from dying and to celebrate our country’s bicentennial.
Over 300 volunteers put the windmill together when it arrived in Elk Horn. Like so many of our historic and cultural treasures in the United States, its continued care is largely based on donations. Luckily, the windmill is one of the most popular and successful tourist attractions in Iowa. Its gift shop is filled with heirloom collectibles and offers an online retail experience at their website.
Learning about the windmill helped me to understand why my Mormor has a small replica of a windmill perched on her window that overlooks The Danish Home gardens. In the hallway at The Danish Home I’ve noticed needlepoint windmill pictures among the many cherished artworks at the community. I wonder if Anna Mikkelsen, who was among the 12 founding women of The Danish Home and who delighted in creating a warm home environment, had windmills throughout her home.
Do you have one in yours?