Hometown History

While it also has the monikers City of Lakes and The Mini Apple, a name I never knew while I lived there was Mill City. Only once I went back to visit and became a tourist in my hometown did I realize how much the flour industry was centered in Minneapolis.

The Mill City Museum sits on the grounds of the original General Mills Flour mill. As flour goes, the mill has a pretty vibrant history. Built in 1866, it was the largest flour mill in the world until it dramatically blew itself up in 1878. The mill explosion (which is re-created a number of ways throughout the museum) is still the largest explosion/didaster of its type in the city’s history. I also came away with the knowledge that finely milled flour is better at exploding than gunpowder. Neat!

It was rebuilt and regained the largest mill title until Pillsbury built a larger one in 1905 across the street.Well, across the river, really. Which river? The Mighty Mississippi, of course. The Miss was the powerhouse providing all the power to run the giant, seven story mills. And the famous giant waterway is conveniently located at the east end of the Great Plains, so all the wheat from the Nation’s Breadbasket (or Grainbelt) was shipped on trains (more Minneapolis history: James J. Hill was a railroad tycoon and was to railroads what Carengie was to steel. As a side note, I went to school with his granddaughter.)

While the Mill City history is interesting (there’s a fantastic 20-minute video of the 200-year history of Minneapolis at the Mill City Museum), I was at least as interested in taking photos. The architecture and ruins lend themselves perfectly to photography. Twice I have been there and both times the place flipped my creative switch and sent me running through it after creative photos like a dancer across a stage.




I’ve always loved old buildings and railroads. Here they are together.


Looking through the old broken windows to the Mississippi


This is the stuff that photo classes are made of.  


From the top floor of Gold Medal to the water tower of Pillsbury.


Seven floors of these things turning by water power, all connected by belts. Imagine the noise! 


One of my favs: The Stone Arch Bridge through the glass plate windows.


 Same-ish view without the window. 


This is what I-beams do in a fire. (The rebuilt mill burned and gutted in one of the city’s largest fires in 1991.)


View of the ruins (which is used as a wedding venue) through the thick glass windows.  


The Mill City also reminded me that what we get here in Seattle is decidely not rain.