Mills / Mill Ruins Park, Minneapolis
As mentioned on my intro page, grain and lumber milling - powered by the only falls on the Mississippi - fueled the growth of Minneapolis in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This museum, housed amid the ruin of what was once the largest flour mill in the world, pays tribute that heritage with exhibits, interactive activities and multimedia shows appropriate for both the tall and small.
Built in 1866-1874 by lawyer, politician and businessman Cadwallader Colden Washburn, the seven-story, hydro-powered “A” mill wasn’t Minneapolis’ first but it was the biggest: employing 200 people, and establishing the city’s reputation as the flour production capital of the U.S. But in 1878, only four years after construction, tragedy struck when combustible dust from the milling process ignited, producing a massive explosion and fire which killed 22 workers, destroyed many nearby businesses and residences, and a total of six mills; a third of the local industry.
Undaunted, Washburn - along with partners John Crosby and William Dunwoody - rebuilt a safer, more modern “A” in 1880, and the company which would become General Mills was soon turning out award-winning Gold Medal flour which is still the leading brand in the world. The new Washburn-Crosby structure enjoyed its “largest" status for only a year until competitor John Pillsbury constructed his own “A” mill directly across the river in 1881.
The mill eventually folded in 1965, and transients took up residence in the deteriorating building until a fire in 1991 destroyed the interior and sections of the exterior walls. At this point the city of Minneapolis decided to preserve the ruin as part of a riverfront revitalization effort, and the museum - which incorporated modern glass and steel with any salvageable remains of old limestone and rusted iron - was constructed in 2001. It is on the register of National Historic Places, and doubles as an event center as well as a unique venue for summer concerts.
Your ticket buys you access to the 8-story “Flour Tower” ride which provides narrated, historic dioramas and exhibits as it travels between floors, a hands-on food lab, rooftop viewing platform (note the large “A” of the Pillsbury mill across the river - which is being turned into condos) and other fun stuff. It also has an unusually good gift shop, a small cafe and restrooms, and is handicap accessible.
Extra tip: bringing the kiddies? A scavenger hunt will make their visit even more engaging! Download sheets geared to various ages here:
This historic area opened as a park in October 2001. While there, you can:
1. walk across the Stone Arch Bridge to Main Street and St. Anthony
2. see St. Anthony Falls either from the bridge or the observation deck at the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers building.
3. Visit Mill City Museum and learn about Minneapolis as a Milling town.
Minneapolis was once the world's flour milling capital. The ruins of what was once the largest flour mill - Washburn A Mill - is now home to the 8 story Mill City Museum. This National Historic Landmark is set on a beautiful location on the bank of the Mississippi River overlooking St. Anthony's Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge.
We ended up here "accidentally" after walking along the Mississippi. The ruins looked intriguing so we decided to check out the museum.
The history of the milling industry is presented through multi-sensory and hands-on exhibits. There is a comfortable 8 minute "show" in a moving elevator that gave good insight to the working atmosphere in the mill.
There is also a theater showing "Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat", a Water Lab, a Baking Lab, Exhibit Gallery, and the 'Ruin' Courtyard.
Take the elevator to the top for great views up and down the Mississippi. We watched a tourist boat maneuver through the locks and dams near St. Anthony's Falls.
The building and the ruins (as well as the falls and bridge) are a photographer's delight. We enjoyed this more than we expected.
Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Also open Mondays in July and August: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$10 adults, $8 seniors (65+) & college students (valid ID), $5 children ages 6-17
Wikipedia tells us that the Washburn "A" Mill was the largest flour mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The original mill was built in 1874 by Cadwallader C. Washburn, but destroyed in an explosion in 1878. The mill was later rebuilt, and for nearly 50 years, the Washburn "A" Mill was the most technologically advanced and the largest mill in the world. At the peak of its production, it could grind enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread per day. Behind the old mill ruins, the new Guthrie Theater's cantilevered lobby juts out toward the Mississippi River .
The Mill City Museum was built within the remains of the Washburn "A" Mill, a National Historic Landmark, which was at one time the largest, most technologically advanced flour mill in the world. At its peak, the "A" Mill ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread in a day. After World War I the milling industry in Minneapolis began to decline. As the industry moved out of Minneapolis, the old mills fell into disuse. The "A" Mill closed in 1965 and in 1991 was nearly destroyed by fire. The Mill City Museum describes the flour milling industry that developed using the water power from the Saint Anthony Falls, dominated world flour production for roughly a half-century, and fueled the growth of Minneapolis, the “Mill City.”
Mill Ruins Park is located on the west bank of the Mississippi River at the end of the Stone Arch Bridge, next to the Upper St. Anthony Lock. In the 1800's, the Saint Anthony Falls Industrial District was the largest water powered facility in the world. The district was recently excavated and the park opened to the public in the Fall of 2001.
This mill was built in 1881 and was the largest mill in the world. The milling industry was responsible for the growth of Minneapolis in the late 1800's. In the photo that I have in my General Tip for Minneapolis you can see the west wall is heavily bowed. A lot of work has been done to this building to make sure it remains standing.
This Museum is house in the old Washburn-Crosby Co. flour mill which has been vacent for decades and burn in sdie in 1991.
It's owned by the Minnesota Historical Society and opened as a museum in September 2003. The building itself is a landmark.
At this place you can learn about Minnesota as a flour milling town.
The Mill City Museum tells the history of the mighty Mississippi River, the flour industry and how both helped put Minnesota on the map. It's built in the ruins of the Washburn A. Mill, which was partially burned down in a fire in 1991.
You can sample bread in the Baking Lab, splash around in the Water Lab or just admire the creative design of the museum itself. It reminds me of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin since it's built in an old building and the museum tour takes you up from ground floor to the top.