Remembering Troy's Christmas Windmill
By Judy Deeter
TROY - Down through the years, the Troy Public Square has had a wide variety of Christmas displays. These photographs (above and below) show one of its most interesting: a Christmas windmill.
The name Barton Studio appears on the 1928 image pictured above. Photographer George Barton moved to Troy from New Carlisle in 1898 and opened a studio on the Public Square. For the next several decades, he and his children created some of Troy’s most outstanding historic photographs. They took pictures for schools, businesses, people, and historical and sporting events. George Barton died in 1924. His son Harold then took over the business. The top photograph was probably taken by Harold Barton. It is owned by The Troy Historical Society and archived at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library in Troy.
It is not clear who first suggested the idea of a Christmas windmill. An article in the Troy Daily News dated Dec. 13, 1928 states, “The idea was devised by representatives of the Business Men’s association and city officials in (an) attempt to decorate the public square in an entirely new way during the holiday season and get away from the standard form of decoration.” The windmill was the centerpiece of what was described as a “Holland Christmas scene.” It should be noted that for many years in the early 20th century there was a tall electric lighted tower on the Public Square that was known locally as the “Eiffel Tower,” so Troy residents were already familiar with a bit of Europe on the Public Square. Some historians think there may have been a connection between the Eiffel tower display and the desire to build the Holland Christmas scene with a windmill.
The building of the Holland Christmas scene was kept a secret in order to surprise local residents. The windmill was built in sections on the top floor of the Troy City building, probably in the area of the building that had once been the Troy Opera House. (That floor was removed from the building many years ago.) It was then dismantled and re-built on the Public Square. City workmen placed it over the fountain in the center of the Public Square.
The cost to construct the windmill was funded by both the businessmen and Troy companies. Hobart Brothers, Hobart Manufacturing Company and the Miami Auto Parts Company loaned motors, bearings, and machine parts to make the windmill turn.
It stood about 40-feet-high with arms 20-feet-wide, was painted green and white and had 400 lights in a variety of colors. Colored lights were also set up along downtown sidewalks.
The Holland Christmas display opened on Dec. 15, 1928—90 years ago. Prior to its opening, the Troy Daily News speculated about how the windmill would illuminate Troy: “Because of its size and many lights the windmill will be visible from the ends of Market and Main streets and anyone entering the city after dark will see the windmill as the first thing of note in the city.”
It is believed the windmill was a Christmas centerpiece in downtown Troy for the next several years. The sight of the windmill is reported to have made downtown Troy a “magical” place for Troy children. With the passage of time, only a few people are now living now who might remember it.
Stories and photographs of past Christmas scenes and events are available for research in The Troy Historical Society collection at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library at 100 W. Main St., Troy. For further information, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.