Most of these windmills are sawmills near the Haut Vaart outside the western wall
of Alkmaar in North Holland in the Netherlands.
The crusaders brought the idea of the windmill to the Netherlands after seeing those in use in the eastern Mediterranean. The Dutch brought the windmill to New Netherlands, where it was a prominent feature of the New Amsterdam skyline. Written sources and maps indicate three windmills, two on the lower tip of Manhattan Island, and another nearby on Governor's Island. Since there were no polders to drain in New Netherland, these were grain or sawmills.
Ten thousand windmills were in use in the Holland during the golden age in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were used for purposes such as grinding grain, draining water from lowlands, and sawing timber. By 1923 there were only three thousand of these mills left, and today 975 survive. In modern times steam engines, internal combustion engines, and electric motors have replaced the windmill.
A windmill, used for grinding corn, was a prominent feature in this woodcut
from about 1630, showing the Fort Amsterdam and lower tip of Manhattan Island.
Frederick Stokhuyzen wrote in his book The Dutch Windmill that, "In the Dutch landscape the windmill is symbolic of the gravity of the Dutch character. Planted solidly on the earth, it is an incarnation of force; it seems as if it had grown up quite naturally from the soil, forming an integral part of the surroundings.... [windmills] carry our thoughts back to the remote past, these windmills which saw so many generations come and go, which in their unspoilt beauty absorbed and preserved, as it were, something of the spirit of the past generations, with their toil, their joy, and their grief. The windmills to us are symbolic of daily human labour, their sails turn round in sunshine and rain, in the biting cold of a winter's day, in the bright spring skies as well as in the heat of summer."
You can view Stokhuyzen's book online at The Dutch Windmill. There are many wonderful line drawings of the workings of various types of windmills in this book. It's well worth downloading and printing for reference.
Stokhuyzen, Frederick (1891-1976). The Dutch Windmill. CAJ van Dishoek-Bussum-Holland, 1962. Translated from the Dutch by Carry Dikshoorn. The book's original title was Molens, printed in the Netherlands with the financial aid of the Prins Bernhard Fonds. There are several other editions of the book from different publishers.
Photographs and Drawings
The Beebe Windmill
The Beebe Windmill, located at Hildreath Lane & Ocean Avenue, Bridgehampton, Suffolk County, New York, was one of the first Long Island windmills to be equipped with a fly, regulators and cast iron gearing. It is also the only known surviving Long Island windmill to which these features are original. The ogee cap of the Beebe Windmill is the only instance of a decorative design in a Long Island windmill. All these features mark a departure from local millwriting tradition and make the Beebe the only surviving Long Island windmill which compares to English windmills of the same period.
Photographs and drawings of this beautiful windmill are online, and the originals are stored at the Prints & Photographs Reading Room of the Library of Congress.
The Historical Development of the Windmill:
A NASA Paper
The wind turbine has had a singular history among prime movers. Its genesis is lost in antiquity, but its existence as a provider of useful mechanical power for the last thousand years has been authoritatively established. The Historical Development of the Windmill includes photographs and drawings.