Debrecen is home to the largest windmill in Central Europe, the Hortobágy Mill (formerly known as the Barcsay windmill). Today it is considered a cultural heritage building and is therefore listed and protected. You can visit the mill building on the corner of Hortobágy and Böszörményi streets.
The Hortobágy mill building
Of all the surviving windmills in Debrecen, the Hortobágy mill is the best preserved. In the 1860s, the city’s grain mills were in operation to supply vast quantities of flour, with 100 mills reportedly turning their wheels in the city and surroundings. The memory of these mills is now only preserved in street names, such as Five Mills Street, One Mill Street, Two Mills Street, and Mill Street.
Around 1860, Debrecen was the food industry center of the eastern part of the country. Most of the mills were animal-powered, these were so-called dry mills, but there were also a good number of windmills and, – as a curiosity – a few small water mills in the Tócó stream valley, which had much more water then.
The Hortobágy mill was built in 1864 and operated by wind until 1898 when it was converted into a steam mill under the leadership of Mór Parragh, and the steam engines were later replaced by gas generator engines in 1929. The latter had no need for the windmill’s sails, which were unfortunately removed, although they would still be a sight to see today.
On a side note, Endre Ady lived at No. 4 Hortobágy utca in 1896, when he was a law student in Debrecen, and he would have walked past the mill on a regular basis, perhaps inspiring his poetry.
The beginning of the end
The once-proud windmill and its two multi-story factory buildings have been emptied. The smaller buildings surrounding the mill have been demolished and replaced by a petrol station and prefabricated houses, but the contrast only emphasized the grandeur of the windmill tower. The tower building and the wing parallel to Böszörményi Street are protected.
The conversion of the listed building was almost impossible, and although there were ideas for its use, as a mill or food industry museum, however at the time there was insufficient funding after the change of regime. During the subsequent years, and privatization period, the building was privatized and in the new millennium the exterior was nicely restored, but there was no money for the interior, especially as the interior structure of the building could not be used for anything else due to its listed status.
Eventually, the authorities allowed the seven-story internal structure to be dismantled and machinery removed. In the empty space thus created, the 4-star Mill Hotel opened on 20th August 2013, with EU support, on the occasion of the Flower Carnival.
The hotel is a seven-story building, with a glass staircase and a panoramic glass elevator in the tower building, and along with the former granary, it has 44 beds. The staircase and the rooms are decorated with period paintings, maps, and archival sketches. The ground floor is occupied by a restaurant with a wooden structure and decoration reminiscent of the original features.