Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mill City Museum Adventure

My classes are silent, students working on projects and so Friday, November 3 turned out to be a good day to have an adventure. The weather is cooling and there is a north wind blowing, so not a good day for a long walk. I decided instead to go to the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis. This is a museum sponsored by the Minnesota History Center. It is located on the south bank of the Mississippi in Minneapolis, although in river parlance it's called the west bank. Here the river runs west to east, but always when going downstream the right hand side of the river is called west.

An excursion on the web revealed that parking around the museum was a bit expensive. So I took myself out for breakfast, left my car in the restaurant lot, and hopped a bus to the 46th Street Station of the light rail.

Boy, was I surprised! I haven't been there in over a year and in that time a huge apartment complex has been built in the station area.

The buses now approach the station area by coming through the arch way. It has a very European feel to it.

Soon I was away on a train to the Metrodome stop.

From the stop it was a 4 block walk to the museum. It is located in the Washburn-Crosby mill.

A bit of background. Minneapolis was the world capital of flour milling for over 50 years, starting from the 1870s and ending with the economic changes of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Wheat came from Minnesota and the Dakotas primarily.

The building in which the museum is housed today was built in the late 1870s. It replaced one destroyed by a great explosion. This is how it looked when completed.

Photo of a museum sign
 When I arrived at the museum, I was asked if this was my first visit. Yes, so it was suggested that I first do the Flour Tower presentation. For this one enters a small tiered area, arranged as if one is going to view a video. In fact, this is an elevator. The elevator when up and down showing us historical scenes from the building and the milling industry.

The elevator would stop and the doors would open to a display.

Below is a video of one of the scenes.

When we finished the tour we were up on the eighth story of the building. Here the museum displays four pieces of original machinery from the mill.

 The above machine somehow gathered flour dust out the air, and then the flour was somehow incorporated back in the milling process. Flour milling was a very dusty business; this is what led to the explosion that destroyed the first mill in this area. Workers also got "miller's lung," a type of occupational asthma.

On the eighth floor we were also on a level for observation deck.

We had a good view of St. Anthony Falls, the only waterfall on the Mississippi River. It was the power of the water that brought the mills into this area. The waterfall looks quite tamed now, nothing like its original state.

Through the library web site for the Minnesota History Center I obtained a copy of Bierstadt's painting of St. Anthony Falls. I felt badly about what we had done to this area. Then later in my visit I learned why it looks like it does today.

Turns out it was quite common to attempt to tunnel under the river. One tunnel collapsed and nearly destroyed the waterfall. What we see today is in fact an attempt to maintain it as much as possible.

From the observation deck I noticed the sign across the river for the Pillsbury Mill.

Nearby is the sign for Gold Medal.

Please see the next post. When I was writing this one, Blogger refused to take more content. So I wrote a second post about more of this experience.

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