Sunday, September 18, 2016

Minneapolis 2016 - Mill Museum

Storms slowed down travel causing me to arrive almost an hour late. Once safely on the ground I was whisked away by my nephew and grandniece to a hipster restaurant in St. Paul where two thirds of the menu options were precede by the word "organic". The sky remained gray and a suggestion was made to walk from my nephew's home to the Minneapolis Mill Museum.

From 1880 and continuing for 50 years thereafter Minneapolis was know as the Flour Mill Capital of the World. The museum is built in the ruins of what was once the largest flour mill in the world. The structure was accidentally destroyed by fire in the 1990's set by squatters living in it after it had been abandoned. The riverfront during those years had fallen on hard times and was known as a dangerous area of town The destruction of the mill spurred redevelopment . New construction began and old mill buildings were rehabbed into loft style apartments. Some ruins of old mills along the riverbank were saved and serve as historical artifacts connecting the city's past with it's present.

We crossed the Mississippi on a 19th century arched bridge.Originally built for trains it is  now given over to pedestrians and bicycles. A breast cancer awareness walk was taking place that day. My young grandniece, sporting a pink necklace handed to her at the foot of the bridge, cheered them on.

A sign rises from one a tall tower of one of the converted mill buildings, a five pointed star with the word North Star Blankets. The sign is simple, elegant and inherently iconic. The building, like others in the area, dates from the last half of the 19th century. Build in 1864, by 1925  North Star had become the largest manufacturer of wool blankets in the country.

Visitors to the Mill Museum are led into a large freight elevator outfitted with seats that moves between floors set with tableaus and showing videos of what it was like working at the mill. Recorded voices of former workers tell their stories. A deck on what would have been the roof of the ruined factory boasts an impressive view of the section of the river that was engineered, via spillways, locks and reinforcement of the waterfalls which were once eroding at an advanced rate, to power the mills along it's shores.

By the 60's advanced automation and convenience foods began to toll the death knell for the mills.
Why bake bread, cakes, pies or muffins at home when you can simply drive to the store and purchase them ready made? Apparently housewives felt they had better things to attend to. You go girls!

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