Minneapolis is a northern city by U.S. standards and that often conjures images of snow and cold. While that may be true in winter, as in many places, that is not the grain of truth about the city I want to reveal to you today…
You may or may not be familiar with the history of Minneapolis. It seems just another modern city with a great business environment, beautiful nature, and super nice folks. It may seem that it just evolved in the great “wander West, folks” of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Well there may have been some of that but the catalyst that planted the seed of this city was none other than the Mississippi River. Where the city was established as a post along the river, though, was not random. There were these waterfalls named St. Anthony’ Falls that were perfect for powering mills. The post grew and expanded as these waterfalls powered industry whether it be lumber mills or wheat mills. And in the latter is where we find the grain of truth about Minneapolis: wheat was key in helping this city grow and thrive.
See, Minneapolis became one of the great end points for harvested northern Midwest wheat to go to be ground into flour. The mills were located right by the river. Today, you still can see the Pillsbury Mill on the east side of the river. But the best way to learn about the grain that powered this city is by visiting the Mill City Museum on the west bank of the Mississippi river where the Washburn “A” mill was located. Since it was a short walk from my well-located hotel, The Hotel Minneapolis, it was a no-brainer to head there and learn more about the city.
The Mill City Museum does a great job of taking the ruins of the last mill to operate on that site (a fire in 1991 destroyed the mill, abandoned since 1965, except for its shell) and turning it into a learning experience about Minneapolis history, about the milling process, and even about baking! It is geared for all ages with specific stations for kids to learn hands-on (adults can play too…).
I enjoyed the the film Minneapolis in 19 Minutes movie which does great job of helping someone like me (read: unfamiliar with the history of the city) understand the city’s beginnings, how it became a major city, and even the trials and tribulations of the changes brought about by the 20th century (the Great Depression, mills closing, etc.).
The flour tower elevator “ride” was also very cleverly done and I will not reveal any more about it. But I will say that it does take you to the top of the tower where you get great views of the might Mississippi River, the “falls”, and the east side of Minneapolis.
I love it when a museum delivers great insights in easy to follow exhibits and narratives. The Mill City Museum is a must-visit for all ages and it help connect you with that grain that seeded its home city!
My activities in Minneapolis were facilitated by its Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.