Sunday, June 12, 2016

A walk along the River

The heart of Minneapolis was once the 'Mill District' where all the major flour mills sprang up. 

The electric power provided by the river turned the rollers that ground the wheat into flour.

A Dakota word for 'falling waters', described St Anthony Falls, an untamed cascade extending from shore to shore until the mid-1800s.  
"The sight to me was beautiful, the white sheet of water falling over the different precipices like so many silver cords...Large bodies of water were rushing through great blocks of rocks, tumbling every way, as if determined to make war against anything that dared to approach them."
Major Thomas Forsyth, 1819

Barely any remnants of that dramatic landscape still survive.

Taming the river encouraged the growth of many industries and helped create a thriving city.


"We could distinctly hear the noise of the water a full fifteen miles before we reached the Falls.  This amazing body of waters form a most pleasing cataract: that  falls perpendicularly about thirty feet."
Jonathan Carver, 1766

Mr. Carver would not recognize the falls he was describing 250 years ago. 

Today the mills have closed.  The area became a Skid Row in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1960 and 1961 the city used photographs to document conditions in the old commercial buildings and mills, most built before 1878.


A standard room in a Skid Row hotel was described this way by one resident:  "A partition of boards and chicken wire, lit with a 20-watt bulb, dirty, and offering a consistent chance that the occupant would get 'lousy'.

The specials today--two boiled eggs, bread, butter and coffee--went for 35 cents.  Coffee alone cost a dime.

In 1962 the massive Gateway Center redevelopment project eliminated 186 buildings and dispersed a community of 3000 flophouse residents; bartenders, drinkers, seamstresses and potbellied pensioners.

The area went through a renovation.  Buildings were destroyed, the ruins of the mills became a museum, and Guthrie built a theatre.


I wonder where Bisquick has gone.  The way of the waterfall I suppose.


  1. More roots... My maternal grandmother was born and raised in Duluth. My daughter and I are hoping to visit Minnesota and Wisconsin together before I'm gone.

  2. Although San Francisco was not a heavy agricultural or industrial city but more one for import-export and finance, similar things happened to the downtown area. There were many many flophouses for the indigent and itinerant laborers, pawn shops, small wholesale businesses, etc., sll gone now and replaced with convention centers, condos, museums and such.
    I like the context you give to your photos. Very nice.