Field Trip to The Mill City Museum

Yesterday we had a fun day!  Jerry took the afternoon off work, and Dane took the entire day off, so that our whole family could take Grandpa to the Mill City Museum!

It was very interesting! This museum is built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. And it is located on the Mississippi River.  Even though it was raining, it was fun to look from way up on the 8th floor out at the river and the city far below. This history is recorded on the museum’s website:

Beginning in 1880 and for 50 years thereafter, Minneapolis was known as the “Flour Milling Capital of the World.” At the industry’s peak, the Washburn A Mill was the most technologically advanced and the largest in the world.  At peak production, it ground enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread in a day. The city grew up around the mills, which received grain via rail lines stretching across the Northern Plains grain belt into the Dakotas and Canada. Trains also carried the milled flour to Duluth and to eastern U.S. destinations both for export and domestic distribution. In 1870, the city’s population was 13,000. Twenty years later it had grown to nearly 165,000. After World War I the milling industry in Minneapolis began to decline. As the industry moved out of Minneapolis, the old mills fell into disuse. The Washburn A Mill closed in 1965. In 1991 the mill was nearly destroyed by fire. Working through the Minneapolis Community Development Agency, the city cleaned up the rubble and fortified the charred walls of the mill in the late 1990s. Shortly thereafter, the Minnesota Historical Society announced plans to develop Mill City Museum.

The Flour Tower 8-story elevator show was one highlight of our tour. A large elevator with padded bleacher-type seating took our tour group up and down from floor to floor, opening its gigantic door to show different aspects of the original flour mill workings.

With superimposed scenes on the walls and voices from the past, this was an experience. The scenes depicted workers handling 100-pound bags of flour, the machinery and explained some of the dangers faced daily:  flour dust is highly explosive in the right environment, even more so than dynamite, and there was a huge explosion before they established safety measures.

There were scenes from the original mill, too, all the while voices of “employees” talking about what it was like to work there through the years. It made us feel we were one of them. It was an extremely tight-knit group.  The employees became very good friends, on the job and off.

“Life at the mill”–the people lived and worked closely together, and many, many of them worked their whole lives there, for 20, 25, even 30 years.

Then we explored the Betty Crocker exhibit, which I found very interesting.

Here is a picture of an old cook stove (Grandpa says they used one quite like it for many years!) What amazed me was the story of a woman, Mary Dodge Woodward, who at my age or possibly even a little older, came to this area with her grown son and his family. He owned and ran a huge farm–1600 acres I think–which in that day meant work for a lot of men, especially during harvest.  Mary had to cook for all these men!

In the exhibit, there is a table set with food (not real, of course), and on the plates there is information.  This plate quoted her as saying, “I baked 17 loaves of bread today, not to mention 21 pies, and puddings, cakes, and doughnuts.”

Here is how Betty Crocker has changed over the years!
I also highly recommend the food at the cafe that is located in the Mill.  I had the half sandwich and soup: Cream of Asparagus and Club Sandwich.  It was delicious and there was plenty of it!  They have homemade desserts, too.  The guys who served us were interesting and fun, too!

If you’re ever visiting or live near the Twin Cities in Minnesota (Minneapolis/St. Paul), take time for a trip to the Mill City Museum.

You won’t be disappointed!

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