Minneapolis’ famed and floured past has long faded. But the city’s Mil City Museum that flanks the Mississippi River is a welcome history lesson for the city – once termed the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.”
That designation began in 1878 when the Washburn A. Mill, originally built in 1874, suffered a devastating flour dust explosion that killed 18 and leveled the mill. Reconstruction included state-of-the-art machinery able to churn out top-quality flour – a feat that vaulted the city to fame for fifty years. Minneapolis, in fact, harbored the most technologically advanced mill in the world.
The Minnesota Historical Society built a museum in 2003, incorporating the ruins of the original mill, which shuttered operations in 1965 and suffered a fire in 1991. The Mill City Museum features a self-guided exhibit gallery, historical multimedia shows, and a 9th floor observation deck with stunning views of St. Anthony Falls and the Mississippi River.
The Museum’s singular architectural design
You can still see the fifteen 128-foot tall cylindrical grain bins topped by a titanic “Gold Medal Flour” sign from the original Washburn A Mill.
Singular architectural features have been built into the new museum, including an eight-story glass façade overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. Huge graphics of vintage mill machines are emblazoned on the glass. The depictions lend a sense of just how titanic an operation the original mill had hosted.
Ruins of the historic mill are best viewed in the 100 square-foot outdoor courtyard surrounded by weathered masonry walls. Admission fees are $11 for adults and $6 for children (children under 5 are free). Seniors and college students: $9.
St. Anthony Falls are best seen from the museum’s ninth floor observation deck. Here you can sense the power and opportunity the river and falls afforded the city. The churning water was a prime source of power for flour and lumber industries – causing Minneapolis to lead the world in flour production for half a century.
Today, riverfront areas in both Minneapolis and St. Paul have been revitalized. The areas are great places for walking and biking, with numerous dining, theater and music venues.
The Grand Hotel Minneapolis: an optimal choice to stay near the Mississippi
The Grand Hotel Minneapolis affords a logical spot to stay in the area, just blocks from the Mississippi. The 140-room, 14 story hotel was originally constructed as the Minneapolis Athletic Club in 1915. The property was turned into a hotel in 2000, and Kimpton Hotels took over in 2010, adding yet another complete renovation.
Kimpton properties were ranked number one in overall customer satisfaction among upscale hotels in the 2012 Market Matrix Hospitality Index.
The Grand sports an adjoining 58,000 square feet of athletic facilities, now part of the LifeTime Fitness chain. Grand guests enjoy complimentary membership to the club. The hotel is located a few blocks east of the ever-popular Nicollet Mall.
The hotel has long since banished the former billiard and card rooms, bowling alleys and the famed Stag Room included in the original Minneapolis Athletic Club. But the property has retained the masculine and sportive feel of the 1915 “Gentlemen’s Club.” Heavy, oak, four-poster beds anchor each room, spread with luxury European linens. Thick velvet, burnt-teal drapes frame windows overlooking the vibrant Minneapolis downtown scene.
Other rugged and masculine touches include a large black-and-white photograph of Rome’s Coliseum in the lobby, and modernized animal trophies in the hotel’s bar and restaurant, the SIX15 Room.
The athletic facilities are truly the main draw, set against the rest of the property’s understated but opulent décor. A third floor gym is complete with expansive cardio, weight training, boxing, yoga and Pilates rooms. Racquetball, handball and squash courts are also nearby, along with a running track and stretch rooms.
Learn more about Minneapolis’ Mill City Museum.
Visit the Grand Hotel Minneapolis’ website.
Explore the benefits of Kimpton Hotels InTouch Loyalty program.