The Bay Area boasts picnic destinations of every variety, from rustic wooden tables on a lawn to casual perches at the playground. But some sites are so stunning, they’re almost otherworldly. Although in the case of Golden Gate Park’s westernmost tip, other-Old-World-ly might be the better term.
At the end of San Francisco’s famous 1,017-acre park, out near the Park and Beach Chalets, you’ll find an oasis of blooming tulips, rolling lawns and two towering, century-old windmills. They’re not just the stuff of postcards, either. At the turn of the 20th century, windmills were a practical solution to a very expensive problem.
This end of San Francisco was once a windswept sea of sand dunes — dubbed Outside Lands — so when the city began building its big park, it negotiated a deal with the Spring Valley Water company for free H2O to irrigate and transform the sandy terra firma into lush landscape. The deal was short-lived. By 1890, the city was paying $1,000 per month for that water — nearly $33,000 in today’s dollars. So park superintendent John McLaren and sugar baron and philanthropist Adolph Spreckels came up with a plan to pump water from an aquifer 200 feet below the park.
Built in 1902, the park’s Dutch Windmill with its giant sails was soon paying for itself. With the completion of the Murphy Windmill in 1907, the two windmills were soon generating enough water — 1.5 million gallons per day — to not only irrigate the massive park, but sell surplus water to neighbors. With the rise of electrical pumps, the windmills were eventually shuttered in the 1930s, their sails and sheathing battered by years of ocean gusts and wind-blown sand.
Today, they’re beloved at restored local landmarks — and the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden at the base of the Dutch Windmill is a beautiful spot for a picnic or stroll, especially in March and April, when those colorful blooms are at their peak.
The picnic: Pick up lobster rolls, salads or chowder at the nearby Park or Beach Chalet, then spread a blanket on the lawn. Or hit up Trader Joe’s for bread, cheese — Gouda, of course — and stroopwafels and go full Dutch.Related Articles
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Source:: The Mercury News