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Wanted: Home for vintage windmills and 'passionate' machinist to care for them

KARE 11 2021 image
Retired Jasper welder Terry Rodman is hoping to bring his vintage windmill collection to a city-owned space south of the fairgrounds in Luverne.
Lori Sorenson

Retired Jasper welder Terry Rodman is hoping to find a home in Luverne for his vintage windmill collection.

He approached Luverne City Council members Tuesday night, Aug. 22, with a request to use city property south of the fairgrounds as a park to display more than 40 windmills of assorted heights and sizes.

“We’d have a building with 18 or 20 in the building that are smaller, and the bigger, taller ones would be outside with some kind of sign explaining a bit about them,” Rodman said.

Knute Oldre, who serves on the Rock County Historical Society and on the Luverne Area Community Foundation, is assisting Rodman in finding a secure home for the windmills.

“For decades Terry’s worked to build, ship and work on a number of different windmills at his home between Jasper and Ihlen just off Highway 23,” Oldre told the council.

“They’re very visible. It’s a one-of-a-kind collection.”

Rodman’s collection includes windmills from 10 different countries — Brazil, France, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Africa, China, Spain and the Netherlands.

“Some are truly unique and no longer exist in a wider market. Terry’s been working to bring them back. Many of them were shipped over disassembled and he reassembled them over here in the states.”

Rodman said all the windmills he hopes to bring to Luverne are functioning and in good shape.

“I go through everything to make sure they have new bearings and shafts,” he said. “Some of the older ones that I put up first won’t come here.”

Among the originals staying behind at his farm is a wooden Dutch windmill that he gave his wife, Kris, as a gift more than 20 years ago.

The proposed windmill park would be south of the fairgrounds on city land formerly owned by Warren Baker and east of the acreage along the Luverne Loop trail.

“It’s really an ideal location because the ground is so low, you can’t do anything else with it,” Rodman said.

Knute said ideally the property could be leased to a partner non-profit entity and possibly included in the city’s parks system.

“It is simply a project that Mr. Rodman would like to be visible to the public and open to the public when weather allows,” Oldre told the council.

“Currently at his farm, its visible and accessible by roadway, but obviously that end of Hatting Street isn’t open year-round, so it would be closed in winter months.”

A 50-by-60-foot building would be available by appointment through the Historical Society, which has agreed to be the host of this project.

“Hopefully it would be open during Fair week when staff would volunteer,” Oldre said. “It would be similar to the model the Hinkly House uses, which is by appointment as well as one set week to focus on tours.”

Rodman currently hosts tours at his farm, often with people viewing the windmills from their vehicles.

City Attorney Ben Vander Kooi said the council could consider a more direct option for accommodating the windmills.

“From a legal perspective, since the city owns the land … the city can do whatever it wants to set up a park there,” he said.

Oldre said if that’s the case, the request could be rephrased another way.

“Does the city of Luverne and its council want to take on another park?” he said.

“And if they do, the windmills will be donated with an agreement that the Rock County Historical Society act as conservators of the assets.”

Rodman would be responsible for transporting and setting up the windmills and would handle initial maintenance.

Also, he’s establishing an endowment through LACF to cover future costs of maintenance.

“He’s working to find a perpetual care team of individuals who will be able to maintain the windmills in his legacy in perpetuity,” Oldre said.

“They are very complicated machines. Some of them require technology that is proprietary – that Terry built himself. He’s looking to find someone passionate in the welding space who he can pass on some of that wisdom to. That search is ongoing. If anyone knows a metal worker who is passionate about what they do …”

Luverne City Council members did not act on the windmill park request Tuesday but assigned staff to research it and report back at a meeting in the near future.

When asked about the timeline for the project, Oldre said, “Terry’s prepared to begin the moving project immediately after engineering work is complete. He wants to move it along as quickly as he can and hopefully start before next spring in order to be complete before the 2024 Rock County Fair.”