A museum in ruins

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN
  • Updated: June 19, 1998 - 11:00 PM

Developing an orientation center for the West Side Milling District

The St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board is moving forward with plans to develop the Washburn A Mill ruins as an orientation center. The center's purpose will be to provide education about the birthplace of Minneapolis at the Falls of St. Anthony and the changes in the region's geography connected to this history. The board hopes to substantially complete the center by late 2001 at an estimated cost of $11 million. Here's a look at some ideas:

North section of mill – testimony to fire's toll on milling

In 1878 the original, then four-year-old Washburn A Mill exploded, sending waves of flame through the milling district. Again, in 1928, fire erupted in the south part of the mill, requiring significant repairs. The current structure succumbed to flames in 1991. The north section of the mill will remain essentially unaltered as testimony to a history of devastation.

1. Several bins, originally used to hold bulk flour, have been salvaged for possible reinstallation.

2. Guided tours, possibly on an elevator-like ride the full height of the mill, would give visitors a perspective on the scope of the milling industry and the processes and equipment involved.

3. Temporary bracing will be replaced with permanent interior bracing.

4. Mill office would be roofed for possible use as public restrooms serving the mill and riverfront areas.

5. Remains of the firewall that existed between the two sections of the mill.

South section of mill – a tribute to the power of the falls

Plans for this area are still very preliminary. The basic components will include interactive displays, a gallery, classrooms and a theater. Tentatively, the museum will be housed on the lowest three floors. Upper stories may be enclosed and developed separately. Here's how the museum might look:

6. Old rail corridor through mill will probably display a boxcar and describe the role that rails played in the milling process.

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