Mill City Museum | Minneapolis Minnesota

Last summer, the kids and I headed up to Minnesota for some fun, and I’m proud to say that I drove all that way without Mr. Houseful. I could have used him though, because it seemed as if the trip would never happen. I was invited up by the Roseville Visitors Bureau, but headed up several days beforehand to check out the Twin Cities before hanging out at the Minnesota State Fair

We were able to check out lots of food and museums, but one of my favorites was the Mill City Museum which is home of all things Gold Medal Flour. It’s a National Historic Landmark. We learned a ton while we were there, and even got to have some fun time putting together puzzles after our grand tour. 

We started with the entrance through the Train Shed. It was beautiful to me right off the bat. Yeah, I know. Train Shed – GORGEOUS, but the simplicity of it, and the fact that it was used to house flour before it went out is something that I love. Just call me someone who would have loved to live back in the day, with the joys of now. You can see that the rails go straight to the door of the museum, letting you know you’re on the right path. 

Upon entering, we find ourselves in the Rail Corridor where we come face to face with a mill stone and the Rail Corridor which houses the St. Paul and Pacific Boxcar #1320. In this area, the boxcars were loaded with flour barrels and shipped off. 

Flour Tower which is an elevator show that travels through eight levels of the building and back through time. We experienced the sights and sounds of the workers and machines that made Minneapolis the flour milling capital of the world. At the end of our elevator ride, we were deposited on the rooftop observation deck to see a gorgeous, and high, view of the Mississippi River, St. Anthony Falls, and the Stone Arch Bridge. Y’all, I’m scared of heights, but my children aren’t. I’m not sure how that happened. I guess that’s all Mr. Houseful. 

 

I couldn’t take pictures of our ride up the elevator, but I think these views make up for it, and should encourage you to head up (or down) to Minneapolis soon! The view is absolutely breathtaking! What’s even more interesting is the fact that their formal rivals,  Pillsbury Flour Building is right across the river from Gold Medal. Talk about fierce competition! 

I know that it sounds counterproductive, but after heading to the top floor observation deck, we descended to the Ruin Courtyard to check out the remnants of a 1991 fire in the mill while it was abandoned. Now, they host live concerts during the summer. It also gave us an opportunity to check out the actual museum area, and read up on the history of Gold Medal and their former competitor – Pillsbury. We saw old pot-bellied stoves and a faux Thanksgiving set up. 

Some of the things we learned in our exploration: 

  • The Washburn A Mill could produce 2 million pounds of flour each day
  • 109 workers worked in the Mill in 1897, most in packing and loading
  • During WWII, B.F. Skinner conducted experiments in the mill to teach pigeons to navigate the first “smart” bombs. 
  • On May 2, 1878, a flour dust explosion killed 18 workers and destroyed nearly a third of the city’s flour milling capacity.
  • Concrete cylindrical grain elevators like Elevator No. 1 were invented in a nearby Minneapolis suburb. 
  • Limestone indicates the rebuilt Washburn A. Mill in 1880
  • Round concrete columns indicate the post fire reconstruction in 1928
  • Square columns and the glass curtain wall is indicative of the current Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum’s location and hours are as follows 

704 South 2nd St., MinneapolisMN 55401

Tues- Sat 10-5, Sunday’s 12-5, Mondays in  July & August only 10-5

Have you been to Mill City Museum? Let me know your favorite part of it below! If not, check it out when you visit the Twin Cities! 

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