A story that needs to be told: Gehrke Windmill Garden


The Gehrke Windmill Garden at North Dam Park. Photo courtesy The Center for Land Use.

Raeley Portch, Student Journalist

The Gehrke Windmill Garden in Grand Coulee Washington is among one of the few things there are to do in the area. 

The history about this garden is unknown to some people but once you learn it becomes more interesting to observe the windmills.

Originally there were 781 windmills created by Emil Gehrke, who began building them in 1960 from recycled materials such as metal and iron scraps in his backyard. 

His wife Veva would paint the windmills.

Their goal was to make young people happy to see the windmills.

When Emil died in 1979, locals put together a memorial garden with over 100 of the windmills to be displayed in the town.

The memorial garden is at North Dam Park, sitting along Highway 155 between Grand Coulee and Electric City.

The reviews people leave though are very lukewarm.

“I have so many questions about who made it, why they made it, and when they made it,” said Nautika Brown, a student at Lake Roosevelt High School in Coulee Dam.

“They look silly, I think it is very random and adds a unique touch to our town,” said AJ Cannon, a LRHS student.

I think if you truly learn the story the windmills are a really cool place in the Coulee – but you have to know the story.

“I think they should be open to the public,” said Carly Neddo LRHS student. 

“My grandma loved the windmills garden but she was also eccentric and had her own wind chime collection garden.,” said Justus Caudell an area resident.

The reviews on the internet are almost worse. People don’t understand the story of how and when they were made which makes them tend to leave reviews that are somewhat heartbreaking. 

“This run down little fences off area is sad. At least it is next to a park where you can rest up and picnic” was a review on trip advisor.

“It’s a windmill place… not too exciting” said a review on Google by Jason Erikson.

The windmill garden was even featured on National Geographic in December 1975. I can’t find the article to quote anything but it is very rare to be featured on there. That itself makes me so proud of the Gehrke’s.