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Gehrke windmills named historic


Last updated 10/12/2016 at 11:37am

The Gehrke Windmill Garden at North Dam Park has been listed on the Washington Hertiage Register of Historic Places.

The Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation granted that distinction Oct. 7 at a meeting in Tacoma.

Coulee Area Park and Recreation District President Bob Valen was present and accepted the listing certificate from Washington State University Historian Dr. Rob McCoy.

CAPRD manages the park.

The council members were delighted with the “whimsical” nature of the site, Valen reported.

Emil and Stella Gehrke’s “folk art,” a collection used household items recycled into windmills, was meant, in Emil Gehrke’s words, to “show the youth of a disposable society that junk is merely a creation of the mind, and that practically any object could be reused,” the application for historic distinction states.

Once numbering about 700 pieces, the few tucked behind the fence at North Dam Park are all that remain, moved there for preservation.

“Upon the Gehrke’s death, a group of concerned citizens, led by Elsie Snook, attempted to work with the town of Grand Coulee to assume some or all responsibility for the garden and its upkeep,” Valen wrote in the application. “At the urging and with the assistance of Saving & Preserving Arts & Cultural Environments (SPACES), an arts advocacy grouped based in Los Angeles, a grant was sought and received from the Washington State Arts Commission to help acquire a grouping of windmills and whirligigs and to create a dedicated installation on public land. Led by EWU Art Department professor’s Dr. Greg Hawkins and Chris Sublett, and Geography Department professor Dr. Jeremy Anderson, several hundred hours of volunteer time were donated by the community to build the current garden and bring the remaining Gehrke windmills to that location. Today, a small group of citizens and the Coulee Area Park & Recreation District provide maintenance of the grounds and display.”


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