A relic from a forgotten bakery chain still spins atop a diner.
For those wanting a side of architectural and retail history with their Moons Over My Hammy, the Denny’s in Arcadia, California, offers a spinning giant windmill that’s a relic of its building’s former life.
Founded in 1915, Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery quickly won over Southern Californians with its coffee and pastries. As branches of the chain popped up throughout the state, as well as along the Oregon and Washington coasts, all fans had to do was search for the slowly twirling blades of the stores’ signature rooftop windmills. As the company changed owners several times across the latter half of the 20th century (eventually filing for bankruptcy in 1990), the stores and their windmills disappeared.
Those nostalgic for the days of Dutch-themed dining can simply venture to Arcadia, where the lone remaining Van de Kamp windmill still twirls atop a Denny’s diner. The building is unmissable: Built in 1967, it blends elements of Dutch and Googie architecture and design. Googie was a popular style among California coffee shops in the mid-20th century that was marked by exaggerated shapes, angles, and colors, meant to attract the eyes of passersby. In the case of the Arcadia building, that meant a roundish structure with a folded-plate roof that was, of course, topped with a trademark windmill.
Since Denny’s took over the space in 1989, the windmill has teetered on the edge of extinction. Initially, the diner chain planned to demolish it, but a public outcry led them to keep the local fixture. For 27 years, the windmill sat atop the restaurant, only spinning when gusts proved favorable. Then, in 2016, Denny’s added a few updates to bring the windmill back to life: a new motor, reinforced blades, and LEDs for nighttime illumination.
But in 2017, disaster struck, as the blades detached and collapsed onto the roof. Thankfully, it didn’t break through and no one was injured. After a yearlong hiatus, a restored windmill appeared on the building in November 2018. It still spins, day and night, continuing its work beckoning hungry drivers to come inside for a cup of coffee and breakfast.
Know Before You Go
Parking in the back is free. The Denny's is located about three blocks from the 210 Freeway.
Although this is the only remaining example of a complete Van de Kamp windmill, there is also a windmill base (no blades) still prominently perched atop a liquor store in Los Angeles.
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