The 16ft. 1888 Aermotor is a very rare machine with only one other survingin example known in existence. It is the original model Aermotor built to power machinery with rotary gearing instead of the pitman crank found on the more common water pumping wind engines. The distinctive bell shaped hub along with its large open gears and mast supportive tail are hallmarks of its unique design. These wind engines were built by Aermotor between 1888 and 1898 along with a 12 ft. diameter version. The 12 ft. model in our collection is an example of the 1900 and later model, they were built until 1923 when it seems Aermotor ended its power mill manufacturing.
Finding a power mill was like being an archeologist. When I was a teenager my grandfather and his contemporaries tried to help me find one. We searched farms where they remembered seeing power mills years ago. We did find some signs but never enough parts to reassemble one. Around 1981 I found in the Lancaster Farmer an ad describing what seemed to be a power mill for sale. It was in Towanda, PA. and my grandfather and I hired a local farmer with a large truck to travel to Towanda, purchase and retrieve the machine. It was a large 1888 style Aermotor which the owner bought at an auction still in the original shipping crates. He had installed it on a short tower next to his house but unknown to him was missing some important parts. The tower had fallen over and missed his house by a few feet so he decided to sell it instead of starting the enormous task of restoration. My grandfather purchased the mill and we hauled it home. Along with it came a few papers that when unfolded I realized they were old large advertisements for Aermotor windmills. The fact the owner had bought the mill at an auction in the original shipping crate coupled with the advertisements leads me to believe the auction may have been at a building of an old Aermotor dealership. The fact it was never installed previously may possibly have saved it from the scrap drives of the two world wars.
For many years the machine laid around my farm in parts. I did manage to have the wheel sections straightened but it wasn’t until 1998 when I was contacted by Mike Brigolin, a kind windmill collector from Michigan that I would be able to start a realistic restoration. Mike had learned that I owned the mill and he contacted me through other windmill collectors. Mike needed the bell shaped hub for his mill and had furling parts that I needed. Mike and his friend Mark Nice drove in from Michigan to pull off a latex mod from my hub and they had parts cast for me from Mikes machine. AS the parts accumulated my machinist for my fan business Emanuel Esh machined the parts and in 2010 we decided to make the effort to create an actual small grist mill that would run from the power mill. Emanuel had already gained experience in restoring the 12 ft 1900 power mill a few years earlier and was eager to take on the project.
In early September of 2010 I received from windmill expert T. Lindsay Baker a number of reprints of early enclosed towers and buildings for both water pumping windmills and power mills. The design I finally created for the mill house is based on the “Bronson” windmill in Fairfield Conn. Our mill building is much shorter and the gamble roof I took from the roof design found in early pictures of the local New Park train station. Emanuel created the blueprints from drawing I made and John Ebersol, and Amish timber framer built a model from which he later made the frame out of Hemlock.
It was a cold April day when I marked out the site for the mill. The site is one of the highest points on the place with a great view and unobstructed for wind flow and low turbulence. In May we drilled holes for the foundation, poured concrete and set anchor bolts. By June we raised the frame in the style of an old barn raising with Emanuel, John Ebersol, John Protopous, David Esh and his crew. The unique shape took form as David Esh’s crew sorked and by August it was completed. The 20ft diameter, 3 story timber framed structure is sided in cypress and covered by a steel roof. Steps lead to a roof hatch where one can access the windmill platform and see for many miles.
On Oct. 17, 2011 the machine was assembled on a ground pipe and hoisted by a crane to the tower top by early afternoon with no problems. Along with the many folks that helped was Mike and his friend Jan who drove all the way in from Michigan just to help and experience the Aermotor being placed in its elements. The mill will eventually power a 17in Meadows stone mill and sifter, a 1 hole corn shelter, a bag hoist, grain cleaner, grain elevator and of course a number of Woolen Mill belt and pulley fans ( www.architecturalfans.com).
Many thanks to those helping in this project including those that are not with us anymore.