Henry Frederick Fischer began windmill construction in 1865 after acquiring farmland from his father, Frederick L. Fischer. The typical Dutch smock windmill was among the first of its kind to be built in the Chicago area. Fischer built the mill with parts from a prefabricated kit imported from Holland that was assembled with the help of two Dutch millwrights and local farmers, including Christian Heidemann. During construction, some alterations were made to the mill’s height and design, which likely caused its construction to span three years. The mill began grinding in 1867.
Just ten years after opening, Fischer sold the mill and 10 acres of his property to Edward Ehlers. Three years later, he sold another 21 acres to Ehlers. Caroline, the widow of Edward Ehlers sold the farm and windmill to the Mount Emblem Cemetery Association in 1925. The association planned to convert the land into a cemetery. Although the windmill and farm buildings were scheduled for demolition, the association instead hired Henry and Franklyn Ehlers, Edward’s sons, to preserve the mill as a museum. They rebuilt the sails, installed new shingles and trim on the exterior, painted the mill, and purposely dismantled some of the inner gearing to better show its use. The sails were turned to an ‘X’ formation, which traditionally means the mill is in “a long rest period.” They also turned the cap to the northeast toward the cemetery’s entrance.
The administration building, along with the cemetery’s entrance gates and bridges, were designed to resemble English architecture of the 1860s, supposedly to “match” the styles used when the windmill was built; however, these copper and stone English structures only contrast with the Dutch woodwork of the mill. Since the cemetery’s dedication in June 1936, the mill plays music on Sundays and holidays from loudspeakers in the third floor windows. It took eleven years for the architects of Simonds, West, & Blair to transform 75 acres of flat farmland into a picturesque, tranquil scene with tens of thousands of new trees and shrubs as well as the creation of Lake Emblem. Over the years, the Fischer Windmill became an historical local icon and the subject of artists’ paintings. In 1956, Mount Emblem was awarded for its preservation of the mill as a public service by the DuPage County Historical Society.
The cemetery itself originally opened only as a Masonic Cemetery. It was heavily advertised in local newspspapers as "Illinois’ Most Beautiful Cemetery; Without the Gates of the City." One of the other emblems of the cemetery is a monument of three pillars, symbolizing Faith, Hope, and Charity, located at the far west end. In later years, a mausoleum was constructed and today, the cemetery is 160 acres.
Most of the sections in the cemetery are named for letters of the alphabet, but special sections are formally named. The "Garden of Eden" is an area directly in front of the windmill leading up to Lake Emblem, surrounded on either side by lilac bushes. The "Veneration" and "Twilight" sections are home to the majority of monument graves. "Reverence" has the Veteran’s Garden. "Eventide" is home to the mausoleum, lawn crypt, and eternal flame feature.
Source: Tom Haskell