Discover Danish heritage in Elk Horn and Kimballton, Iowa

IMG_9771
A working windmill awaits visitors who take the trip to Elk Horn, Iowa.

The windmill, built in 1848, has called Elk Horn home since 1976. A group of residents led a drive to bring an actual windmill across the Atlantic Ocean from Denmark.

The windmill greets visitors to the small town. It’s part of the visitor’s center.

Elk Horn area residents are proud of their Danish ancestry. The towns within a radius of about 30 miles make up the largest percentage of Americans with Danish blood in the United States. Only California’s Solvang region has more Danes.

Touring the windmill takes less than an hour. The tour starts with a 15-minute video highlighting the history of bringing the windmill to Elk Horn. Very interesting is how it was disassembled in Denmark and then reassembled here. It took about a year to reassemble it, using 300 volunteers and about 1 million hours of work.

Elk Horn Danish Windmill

You can climb to the third level of the windmill. If you are concerned about tight spaces or steep ladder steps, I would avoid going higher than the second floor.

Elk Horn Danish Windmill

The windmill, as I previously mentioned, is a working one. Theoretically, you could grind grain in it. The gears actually turn.

Walking outside, you can visit the bust of famed Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Hans Christian Andersen bust in Elk Horn, IA

Check out the grounds and you’ll see a small-scaled model of a Danish Lutheran church, cabin and apple trees.

Danish Lutheran church in Elk Horn, IA

A few blocks into town sits the Danish Immigrant Museum. It highlights Danish people immigrating to the United States, the history of Denmark during World War II and life afterward. A section highlights modern era Danish-influenced furniture.

Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

Walking into the museum, you see a Nimbus motorcycle. About 14,000 motorcycles were built between 1919 and 1960. It was used primarily by police, military and postal units. Some civilians used the bike.

Nimbus motorcycle at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

Nearby is a piano donated by Victor Borge, a famous pianist. Not only is it a Borge-owned piano; it’s the first piano he ever owned. That is amazing! He felt so strongly about the museum succeeding that he donated a very important piece of himself.

Piano owned by Victor Borge at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

The lower level of the museum houses artifacts. It starts with the history of Danes moving to America. A hat worn by an immigration officer at Ellis Island is among the items. Hat

Danish immigrants felt the need to serve their new country during time of war.

Jewelry from Danish Immigrants at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA We enjoyed looking at some old jewelry and patches.

Several Danish dolls have been donated to the museum.

Danish Dolls at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

Folk clothing is also on display.

Folk clothing on display at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

The museum has so many artifacts that can’t be displayed. The museum is currently building an addition, so more items can be available for public view.

The museum covers World War II Denmark. Since the German government viewed Danes as fellow Aryans, the country was not technically occupied. Nazi soldiers and government officials were prevalent.

Denmark had about 8,000 Jews. The Nazis decided to take them to concentration camps. Politicians tried to block the actions, but proved unsuccessful. So, people took steps to get Jews out of the country before Nazis could capture them. Most made it to Sweden safely.

Replica of boat used to transport Danish Jews to Sweden

Replica of boat used to transport Danish Jews to Sweden

However, less than 500 Danish Jews were captured by Nazis. About 45 of them died from illness.

Further along in the museum is an exhibit highlighting the modern era of Danish-influenced furniture.

Danish influenced furniture at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

One chair, known as “The Chair,” stood out during the 1960 presidential debates between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. The chair sat empty between the candidates and was caught by TV cameras.

Chair at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

The design of the chairs on display seemed cool to me. The curves and clean lines made for smooth looking furniture.

Danish influenced designed furniture at Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, IA

A few miles north of Elk Horn is Kimballton – another Danish immigrant area. It’s home to the Little Mermaid. It’s a replica of the mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Fountain in Kimballton, IA

Elk Horn is proud of its Danish culture. The town, which is about 7 miles north of Interstate 80, is worth the drive.

Danish Flag in Elk Horn, IA

For more information on the Danish windmill and immigrant museum, please see:

http://www.danishmuseum.org/current-exhibitions.cfm

http://www.danishwindmill.com/

http://www.kimballtoniowa.com/