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Cape Cod Windmills as Far as You Could See

At one time, there were seventy-eight salt works in Provincetown alone. These were composed of broad, shallow, wooden boxes or vats, into which salt water from the sea was pumped by a windmill.

The water was gradually drained, as it evaporated, from one vat to a lower one, and thence to a still lower one, until, all the water gone, pure salt remained on the bottom of the last vat. Sometimes there were seven such vats, all connected. Naturally, they occupied a large amount of space. The demand for salt was huge, the price obtained for the work of producing it was high.

By 1832, 881 salt works produced some 250,000 bushels of salt annually. With the discovery of salt in mines in New York, and the advent of the railroad, the evaporative process was far too expensive, and the business declined. The last salt vats were dismantled in the 1890s. Most of the lumber was recycled and used to build houses, barns, and sheds. These salt loaded beams and boards are still leeching salt to this day in some old Cape Cod houses.

881 salt works all with windmills? I guess the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm pales in comparison to the amount of windpower that was used here 150-200 years ago. Remember farming and harvesting wood for maritime industries left large portions of the Cape devoid of trees by the 1800s. So I guess historically the Cape was “windmills as far as you could see”.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 01/30/06
Categories: History
Keywords: wind farm, history, windmills, saltworks


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