End of an Era : The Bear River Windmill

On Monday, May 17, 2010, The Bear River Board of Trade held a public meeting to discuss the current state of the Bear River Visitor Information building, otherwise known as “the Windmill”.  Over 35 people attended including representatives from the Bear River Economic Development Society, the Bear River Historical Society, the Oakdene Centre, the Bear River Legion, Bear River Studio Tour brochure group and local business owners.

During the course of recent Windmill restoration efforts, the Board of Trade discovered evidence of advanced structural deterioration that posed a severe public health and safety risk.  Details of these findings were presented in a slide show presentation at Monday night’s meeting, and  followed with a very open and productive community round table discussion to decide next steps.

It was collectively agreed by those in attendance that our beloved Windmill building was beyond the point of repair and therefore no further resources should be spent on restoration efforts.

The Visitor Information Centre will be relocated to another building this season, perhaps the Oakdene Centre.

We thank B.R.E.D.S and the Oakdene Centre for their ongoing support while we sort out the logistics of providing quality visitor services in the village for the upcoming tourist season.

As shocking as it is to lose our beloved Windmill, this presents an opportunity for all community members and groups to work together to plan a waterfront that could even serve our community beyond the summer months.

Prior to the thorough investigation of the state of the Windmill, the Board had been in preliminary discussions with ADEDA about waterfront funding and in the process of gathering the necessary information needed to move forward with a detailed proposal and welcomes all community input and suggestions.

Please email your ideas to botsecretary@gmail.com or join the discussion on our website.  Everyone is welcome to our monthly meetings held the third Monday of each month at 7:30 pm in the Firehall.


President: Kelly Foxton
Vice President: Joe Quercia
Operations Committee: Kelly Foxton, Joe Quercia, Erin Schopfer & Ginny Hurlock
Waterfront Committee Co-Chairs: Rick Jacques & Jon Welch
and the other Board of Trade Directors.


10 thoughts on “End of an Era : The Bear River Windmill

  1. Sue Turner

    I am sad to have found this article while searching for images of this building. Anton Geerligs (common mispelling is “Geerlings”) was my grandfather. My family (i believe my brother Steve posted his disappointment in another thread) spent many summers at our grandparents farm prior to the windmill being moved. It was not only a beautiful place for people to come visit (and many did), but it gave us a sense of our roots and where we came from (our father was born in Holland, myself and my brother in Canada). Very upsetting that the building appears to have not been maintained over the years to let it get to such a bad state. I can understand having to demolish the building based on the excessive damage (coincidentally I publish building codes and structural manuals), but am more disappointed that yearly maintenance did not uncover potential problems years ago (when repair may still have been an option).
    Although the buidling can never be replaced (imo), a replica or more modern version of it would be my vote. It will keep that memory somewhat intact even if the building is new.
    Incidentally, if anyone has images of the windmill (prior to the disrepair and demolition) I would appreciate them. I have many but some are blurry, small, etc. I have been designing a tattoo for quite some time to commemorate my father Otto Geerligs (anton’s son) who passed away July 4th, 1997 and the windmill will be incorporated into the design.

  2. Bear River Board of Trade Post author

    The issues raised in these comments deserve thoughtful responses. The BOT directors’ will meet to discuss your letters and will either post a reply here and/or at the next general meeting.
    In the meantime, if you have direct questions for the Board, please address them c/o Secretary Erin Schopfer at the following email:

    1. Paul Howard

      Maybe an ultra modern glass building powered by a wind turbine generator and solar panels would look nice?
      Keep the old buildings but if you have to rebuild something for the future then make it modern.

      I will post some ideas on my page below:-
      Bear River Community Page on facebook

  3. K.Buckler

    I’m not angry, just voicing my opinion, I’m entitled to. It’s going to be sad to see it go that’s all.

    1. Flora Doehler

      Hi Elizabeth,
      The Board of Trade will hold public meetings around the future of the waterfront and grant applications for a building. As you know, this is a tight community and everyone’s input is essential, in order to have a successful outcome.The wonderful aspect about living in a small village is that it actually is possible to hear from all.
      As upsetting as this has been and still is, the community has been galvanized in a way that has the entire village talking about and concerned with our shared community assets. As you know, most of the care for our many heritage buildings is done by volunteers, often with donated materials.
      Ironically, the discovery of the windmill condition was part of a ‘let’s do repairs and spruce up the windmill for the 2010 tourist season.” The other part of that effort was to make flower planters for every downtown building and business and to give a hand with repainting some of the buildings too. There is a good energy happening downtown right now, along with a sadness to see a charming building come down.
      With the input of so many, we are bound to figure out how to fill the gap that our blue windmill will leave.
      If anyone would like to be on the Board of Trade mailing list, please send a message to botsecretary@gmail.com

      1. Elizabeth Hopkins

        I don’t live in Bear River anymore. I got run out of town 🙂 more than ten years ago. I watched this windmill being rebuilt in 1982 when I worked at the tourist bureau.

        For me taking down the windmill is tantamount to say, flying a plane into the World Trade Centres in NYC (without the lives lost). It destroys a beautiful and familiar landmark that for many has come to represent the place we call home.

        They re-built in once, why not again? Or better yet make a working windmill and put a few of the energy producing ones for green power and make it a village known again for windmills. It would probably go well with the Bear River Aquatic Waste system.

  4. K Buckler

    Kind of funny, when once the building is need of repairs it should have been taken care off right away, then to put it off in order to save it. People making excuses is just a false way to get rid of something that wasn’t really a traditional thing that was part of the community. It was built and born in born in Bear River by a man who came from Holland, a Geerlings. A sad shame his work is going to be demolished, a sad, sad, sad shame.

    1. Flora Doehler

      Dear K Buckler,
      I agree with you that the building should have been maintained properly over the years. Neglect of structural issues led to the sorry state of today. I don’t believe the neglect was a conscious decision to ‘get rid of something that wasn’t a traditional thing’, because there is a genuine fondness for the windmill in this community. I can’t explain it, but I do know from the engineer’s report, which we will be putting on the site, that the rot had gone on over years.
      It will be sad to see it go, for sure and you do have every right to express that and we welcome your comments.
      Flora Doehler
      Bear River Board of Trade Director


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