In 1974, Sal Sapia was commissioned by a local resident, Robert Croft, to design and build a life long dream and infatuation. When Croft approached Sal about building a windmill on his property, Sal thought he was talking about something 6 feet tall. In reality, Croft told Sal that he wanted it four stories tall, fully finished, and livable… which would turn out to be one of Sal’s greatest design accomplishments.
The Windmill became a weekend project for Sal and the crew of carpenters he employed. Sal and Croft went back and forth on designs until Sal proposed an octagonal upward tapering, to scale, model he had designed in his kitchen at night. At that point Croft could see his dream coming to reality.
Sal began construction that year by digging the 8 foot deep foundation the windmill would be bolted down to. After this, Sal began building the structure by setting up onsite workbenches as long as the full height the building would be. Each of the eight exterior walls were framed, trimmed, and sided on these benches then set on the ground when finished. Once all eight exterior walls were finished, Sal began building the upper cap. At this point, an entire weather proof exterior shell was ready for assembly.
A single crane was hired to hoist the tremendous exterior walls up and into place. As Sal recalls, the first and second walls were the hardest to control. The first was lifted up and set on the foundation, bolted, and braced. The second panel, and ones to follow, needed the same attention with the addition of being fastened to one another. This was done by men on the ground guiding and steering the walls with cables as the crane hoisted them. At this same time, Sal balanced himself over 30 feet in the air on top of the single walls, catching each new wall as it came through the air and fastening it to the previous one just set. The octagon tower was finally together and ready for its roof. Just as was done with the walls, the crane picked and set the Windmill’s cap.
There’s many amazing qualities the Croft Windmill boasts besides its original design and assembly. One of the more fascinating features literally revolves around the Windmill’s blades. Each blade was designed and fabricated based on drawings from an airplane propeller engineering book. Sal adapted the engineering specs to his own hand made wooden design. The blades were self fabricated in our workshop by Sal himself. Even more amazing is their functionality exemplified by the minimal 3 m.p.h. of wind required to move the fully balanced blades.
Notable features of the interior include city water, underground electric, and electric baseboard heat. The first floor of the Windmill consists of a living room area and an efficiency kitchen with beautiful views of the cove. The second floor is home to the Windmill’s master bedroom and bathroom. Above, on the third floor, resides the den and library with a stair case up to the fourth floor. Up here, tucked under the cap of the Windmill, you’ll find bunk beds and the mechanical room housing the area where the shaft of the Windmill’s blades is secured.
Sal Sapia’s design and construction of the Croft WIndmill has been documented by newspapers, architectural magazines, and more. It has become a icon of the Connecticut River and a fixture that will endure through time.