The Mill City Museum
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota (704 South 2nd St.)
When to visit: 10 am – 5 pm (Tues-Sat) or noon – 5 pm (Sun)
Cost: $11 for adults, $9 for students & seniors, $6 for kids
Time needed to enjoy: 1 hour
Can I interest you in a museum dedicated to all-purpose flour? The Mill City Museum in Minneapolis is more interesting than that statement makes it sound. But it really is pretty much about flour. And Bisquick. And the history of flour milling, and the history of Minneapolis itself.
The museum lives in the ruins of the Washburn “A” mill, which was once the world’s largest flour mill and sat along the banks of the Mississippi River. Exhibits explain the entire process of converting wheat into flour and bread, including how roller mills are used to grind wheat kernels into fine bits of flour.
The “A” Mill was built in 1874 but destroyed in a flour dust explosion that killed 18 people. The explosion led to a fire that devastated the city’s riverfront business area. In 1880, the mill was rebuilt using the most advanced technology, which allowed it to increase its output. It produced enough flour in one day to produce 12 million loaves of bread.
The mill was shut down in 1965 after it became obsolete due to further technological changes. In 1991, another fire destroyed most of the remaining building.
Part of the draw of the Mill City Museum is just seeing the ruins. Guests are slowly carried up to the 9th floor via elevator, watching a historic presentation about the Flour Tower along the way. From the observation deck, you can see the view of the Mississippi and the nearby riverfront park.
From the ruin courtyard below, look up at the walls and busted-out windows that remain.
I don’t know why, but there’s a definite appeal in being among the ruins of a building. Some people even choose to shoot wedding photos there!
The museum also offers a video on the history of the city, titled “Minneapolis in 19 minutes flat.” I had to skip the movie because I didn’t have enough time, and quite honestly, 19 minutes is a long time to sit and watch a historic film. I’d suggest editing that to around 12 minutes.
You can also stop by the baking lab to see live baking demonstrations. You may even get a fresh cookie sample.