James Island’s historic windmill is the centerpiece of fundraising for repairs

JAMES ISLAND — Nearly 90 years ago, a Lowcountryman who had seen windmills in Europe at the end of World War I decided to build one on James Island to pump water from a well for his house and his garden.

The wind device is still standing, though it now sits at the edge of Wappoo Creek with its sails anchored in place for protection.

To help preserve the historic structure at the end of Plymouth Avenue, a James Island group is seeking to cover the cost of expensive repairs through fundraising this spring.

The Riverland Terrace Garden Club, which oversees the structure between a fire station and a landing stage, will host its Spring Garden Tour and Bazaar from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 19 at Bethany United Methodist Church, 1853 Maybank Highway, for raise funds to renovate the windmill.

The entrance to the mill is closed to the public but it will be open, including the interior staircase, during the benefit event with the purchase of a ticket.

Not only does it need new paint, but some of the wood is in poor condition and needs replacing or cleaning, including some of the original cedar shingles, said Sandee Bauer, former garden club president and president of the windmill committee.

An estimate puts the required fixes at several thousand dollars.

“It needs some pretty major repairs,” said garden club member Priscilla Shumway.

To help raise funds, instead of a home visitation this year due to the ongoing pandemic, the event will feature six “secret” gardens from Riverland Terrace for visitation between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Information and maps for visiting the garden will be available at the church. the day of the event.

Advance tickets are $25 each. The price increases to $30 on the day of the event. All proceeds will go towards stabilizing the historical structure.

As a bonus, free cookies inspired by windmills will be offered to participants at the mill and the bazaar.

The two-story Dutch-style windmill was designed and built in the 1930s by John Roessler, the son of German immigrants and a locksmith by trade.

After seeing the windmills of Europe at the end of World War I, Roessler, a self-proclaimed handyman, decided to build the device near the house he and his wife, Frieda, occupied on the shores of Wappoo. Creek where, at the time, he reportedly said, “There was nothing here but cows.”

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Roessler began building his windmill in 1933. He used the mill to pump water from a well to the house and garden, according to a landmark story in The James Island Bugle.

“Roessler’s windmill machinery was built with iron gears and wheels, mostly from scrap metal, except for one iron wheel which was forged in Philadelphia,” reported The Bugle.

“The hexagonal shape of the mill and the horizontally sloping thatched-roof tower topped with a cap resemble the Dutch ‘Smock-style’ mill, so named because the shape resembles the smock worn by farmers long ago”, as described by The Bugle.

Roessler died in 1982 and ownership eventually passed in 1996 to a new owner who wanted to build a house on the land where the windmill stood. He offered it to the garden club if they could find a new home.

In 2000 the windmill was partially disassembled and moved onto a flatbed truck about 1000 feet west to land near the Plymouth Avenue landing stage, where it stands today and continues to be maintained by club members.

To purchase tickets, contact Joan Dunning at [email protected] or call 843-324-8754. For more information, visit Facebook.com/RTgardenclub.

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