Brookhaven College

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About Brookhaven College

The Story of the Brookhaven College Windmill

In 1846 when Noah Good and his family settled in Texas, the landscape was a good deal different than it is today.  Good built his home just north of the creek behind where Brookhaven College now sits.  As a way to commemorate the pioneer spirit that Good and many others showed, a windmill was chosen in 1978 as the symbol for the youngest college in the Dallas County Community College District.

The windmill was to be more than a symbol though; a German engineer Walter Schonball designed the windmill to be a functioning source of power for Brookhaven College.  It was meant to be a representation of the steps education could take in the search for new energy sources and to honor the history of Farmers Branch as the oldest farming community in Dallas County.

The first delivery of blades and the generator for the windmill was expected in February 1978, but it was not until August that the parts finally arrived from Germany.  After waiting months for delivery, a mistake in the packing resulted in the total destruction of the blades and severe damage to the generator.  A new set of blades arrived in Houston, in June 1979.  On their journey from Houston to Dallas, the blades were destroyed when the truck carrying the blades blew a tire and the driver lost control of the vehicle.

In December of 1979, Mr. Schonball appeared at Brookhaven College with a new set of blades, a repaired generator and hopes of completing his intended project.  In the attempt to mount the blades, it was discovered that the top mountings were over by several tons.  Schonball returned to Germany to modify his original design.

Finally, in August of 1980, Schonball returned with a modified version of the windmill and construction was completed on Aug. 8.  A sophisticated piece of machinery, the fiberglass and polyester blades for the windmill were manufactured in France.  They measured 10 meters in diameter and 17 feet long.  The total weight of the structure was approximately 15 tons.  The generator was manufactured in England and served as the heart of the windmill itself.

The truly historic moment came on the night of Dec. 3 when a handful of students witnessed the operation of the Brookhaven College windmill.  Designed to produce 30-90 kilowatts of power, the plan was to test the brake assembly of the windmill before connecting it to the college hot-water heater.

The generator never produced any electricity though, and the windmill tower was scheduled to come down during spring break of 1985.  The tower exceeded Farmers Branch's height regulations and because after three years it still had never generated electricity, the city's height waiver to allow it was revoked.

In the end, after several attempts to have the windmill repaired, the district decided to dismantle the structure.  One article in the Brookhaven Courier student newspaper in the spring of 1985 reported on a poll of students regarding their feelings about the windmill.  The article, entitled "Saying farewell to the BHC windmill," said 40 percent thought the school should keep the windmill because of the atmosphere it created, the symbolism it carried and because it evoked school spirit.  Another 30 percent of students responded with comments questioning that the structure was a windmill at all, saying they hadn't realized the tower was a windmill.  A minority of students thought it should be removed.