Minneapolis / Saint Paul / Twin Cities urban exploration WEST BANK MILL TAILRACE TUNNELS

Extending from 3rd Avenue South to just below 10th Avenue South, the West Side Mill District at one time featured an assemblage of mills and support industries that made it one of the densest concentrations of industry in the world. The government sawmill and grist mill built in the early 1820s were the first industries to tap the great waterpower potential of the Falls of St. Anthony.

Expansion of waterpower use next occurred on the east side as the west was part of the Fort Snelling Military Reservation until 1852. Once private interests acquired the land on the west side of the Falls, development was rapid. Following the construction of the first segment of the 1st Street canal in 1857, platform sawmills were built over the Falls and large stone flour mills began to line 1st Street.

By the mid-1880s, 25 flour mills, a woolen mill, a sawmill, and the city waterworks lined an extended canal. The mills were surrounded by machine shops, cooper shops, and other milling support industries. Railroad tracks were interspersed among the buildings paralleling the canal.

By 1890 the platform sawmills were gone and hydroelectricity was the up and coming industry at the Falls. The flour mills continued to dominate the district until the 1930s Depression when a number of them were torn down and Minneapolis lost the lead in flour production.

In 1960 the west side canal was filled-in during the construction of the Upper Lock and Dam and many of the mill ruins were soon covered with gravel. Flour production on the west side ceased in 1965 with the closing of the Washburn A Mill.

Several large elevators still dominate the riverfront skylines at the south end of the district, although most are scheduled for demolition.

(stolen from a 1989 article in "The Minnesota Archaeologist")

Why'd ya think they call Minneapolis
"Mill City" ?

I'd like to fuck the shit out of you.
Over the years, Action Squad has taken nearly a dozen trips to the ruins of the West Bank Mill District and, more to the point, the tailrace tunnels that once carried the water out from the plant after its momentum had been harnessed and converted to hydroelectric power. However, we seem to have photos from only three trips: one prior to the archaeological excavations done in late 2000 that opened up the mouths of many of the tailraces, one while this project was in progress, and one after the dig was complete and the mouths of the tailraces were barred off.

Click here for the reports & photos from those trips >
You took your clothes off and I started to laugh.