Archive for the ‘Mill Ruins Park’ Tag

Mississippi River West Side Tail Races and Spirit Island

Given several comments and questions about last Friday’s photos of the Mississippi River and the tail races from the west side mills, I’ll post several more photos that I was saving for an article specifically about Spirit Island. To my knowledge, Spirit Island was never considered as a potential park.

Once airplanes became more common and aerial photography developed, we were able to get better pictures of layouts of complex places like the milling district of Minneapolis and how the river was configured. The photo below from about 1925 shows the relationship of the tail races and the spit of land between the tail race channel and the main channel.

The configuration of mills, tail races, and falls in 1920s (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

The configuration of mills, tail races, and falls in 1920s. Note that there is no surface flow of water from above the falls into the tail race channel to the left of the Stone Arch Bridge. (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

The photo I posted Friday was shot, I believe, from the lower end of that land between channels, at the bottom of this photo, not Spirit Island.

This photoprint dated 1890 shows the relationship of Spirit Island with the land visible above. Spirit Island appears to be considerably further out into the main channel of the river.

Spirit Island, right, appears to be much further into the main channel of the river than the land separating the main river channel from the tail race channel at left.

Spirit Island, right, appears to be much further into the main channel of the river than the land separating the main channel from the tail race channel coming in from the left in this image. (Minnesota Historical Society)

These photos of Spirit Island show the changes in the island over thirty years.

Spirit Island 1899 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Spirit Island, 1899 (Minnesota Historical Society)

Spirit Island, 1920s (Charles Gibson, Minnesota Historical Society)

Spirit Island, 1920s (Charles Gibson, Minnesota Historical Society)

A second photo from the same date in 1899 as the one above, May 27, shows more clearly the makeshift bridge to Spirit Island and the people and horse teams on the island when the photo was taken.

Spirit Island, 1899. Note the people and horses that have apparently crossed on a bridge to the island. (Minnesota Historical Society)

Spirit Island, 1899. Note the people and horses that have apparently crossed on a bridge to the island. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The presence of the horse teams makes me think the limestone on the island was quarried, which led to the much lower profile of the island in the 1920s.

Spirit Island didn't change much from the 1920s to the 1950s. (Fairchild Aerial Surverys)

Spirit Island didn’t change much from the 1920s to the 1950s. (Fairchild Aerial Surveys)

Spirit Island appears not to have changed much from the 1920s to 1955 when this photo was taken by Fairchild Aerial Surveys. The lower lock at the bottom of the picture appears to be under construction, but the upper lock was not yet begun. The lower lock was completed in 1956.

The last photo also answers an earlier question about when the railroad trestles on the west side milling district were torn down: before 1955. They are not visible here. All tracks except the two crossing the Stone Arch Bridge appear to pass behind the mills.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© 2013 David C. Smith

Friday Photo: Before the Mills Were Ruins

Let’s go down to the river one more time. I have many favorite pictures of the riverfront when it was the economic engine of Minneapolis, but this is probably at the top of my list.

The west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, just below St. Anthony Falls, in 1885. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The west bank of the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis, just below St. Anthony Falls, in 1885. (Minnesota Historical Society)

You can see just a dash of the still-new Stone Arch Bridge on the right margin of the photo. The channel here is all tail race — the water that ran out of the mills after generating power.

My favorite part of this photo though is the trestle and railroad tracks that ran between the mills and the river at essentially the level of city streets. Those tail races coming out of the mills are now a part of Mill Ruins Park. The trestle and tracks are gone, but I don’t know when they were torn down. Anybody?

Below are two shots (a 3-for-1 Friday Photo!, the biggest Friday Photo discount ever) of the tail races as they appeared probably in the 1950s.

Tail races, some of which are now visible in Mill Ruins Park. (MPRB)

Tail races, some of which are now visible in Mill Ruins Park. (MPRB)

A closer look at the trail races adn water returning tothe river after its work was done. (MPRB)

A closer look at the trail races and water returning to the river after its work was done. (MPRB)

Both photos are undated. They show the water coming out of the tail races. They give a much better sense of the management of water power. I’m not sure of the functions of structures and workers at this point in the water power process.

These structures were razed and covered when the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam was built in the 1960s.

For a marvelous 360-degree panorama of Mill Ruins Park and the adjacent lock and dam go here, courtesy of the National Park Service. Learn much more about the lock and dam — one of the biggest mistakes Minneapolis and the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers ever made — at the pages of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area.

Have a look around the park — if spring ever comes. The transformation is amazing — and thought-provoking.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

© Copyright 2013

Friday Photo: West Riverbank from the Stone Arch Bridge

I don’t want to overdo the Stone Arch Bridge, but will run that risk with this photo found by Andrew Caddock at the park board. I showed the picture recently to a group of local history buffs and asked for guesses on when it was taken. Guesses ranged mostly from 1930-1960s. The real answer is ….

View from the Stone Arch Bridge 1980 (Riverfront News)

View from the Stone Arch Bridge. Click for larger image. (Jim Keane, Riverfront News)

…1980. Not that long ago.

The piles of sand and aggregate in front of the old mills were used to make concrete and were owned by Shiely Co. The materials  were mixed on site and used in downtown construction projects; the sand and gravel could be transported at much lower cost by barge than by truck. The company first used the area for aggregate storage when it was making the concrete to build the upper lock and dam — on the right of the bridge — which was completed in 1965. Train traffic on the Stone Arch Bridge had stopped a couple of years before this photo was taken.

The photo appeared in the December 1980 issue of Riverfront News, a publication of the Minneapolis Riverfront Coordination Board, which included representatives of the major agencies of Minneapolis government.

The land under the sand piles is now Mill Ruins Park. The Guthrie Theater would be near the left edge of the photo

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Friday Photo: How A Stone Arch Was Made

The Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis is becoming one of the iconic images of the city. Have you ever wondered how those arches were made? I have. So I found this photo of the bridge under construction. The deck of the bridge is maintained by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, so let’s call it a park. Day and night the bridge provides the best views of the city. A hike over the bridge between Mill Ruins and Father Hennepin Bluffs, in either direction, is a must for visitors and residents.

This stereoscope image shows the stone arches being built over forms in 1883. (Henry Farr, Minneapolis Historical Society)

This stereoscope image shows the stone arches being built over forms in 1883. (Henry Farr, Minnesota Historical Society)

The two-track railroad bridge was being built at the time the park board was created in 1883.

The Stone Arch Bridge deck being completed in 1883. (Burlington Northern, Minnesota Historical Society)

The Stone Arch Bridge being completed in 1883. (Burlington Northern, Minnesota Historical Society)

This is another favorite shot of the bridge as it neared completion

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Bridges at Minnehaha Falls

The continuing Partners in Preservation voting on Facebook prompted me to look up information on the bridges over Minnehaha Creek below the falls that need restoration. Minnehaha Park is one of 25 contestants for a $125,000 grant from American Express to preserve local historical sites, another is Mill Ruins Park. The funds would be used at Minnehaha to tuck point and repair the WPA era bridges over Minnehaha Creek and retaining walls.

The first bridge to appear in photos of the falls on the Minnesota Historical Society Visual Database is this one that is catalogued as “ca. 1860.”

This is the earliest dated photo -- ca. 1860 -- of the bridge below Minnehaha Falls in the Minnesota Historical Society's Visual Resources Database.

Of course that was long before the land surrounding the falls was acquired as a park. The Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners purchased the site as a state park in 1889 when the Minnesota legislature couldn’t come up with the $92,000 to buy the land. A group of private citizens, led by George Brackett, raised the money to purchase the land and was later repaid by the city. I have seen no evidence of who built or owned this bridge.

In 1893, four years after the park board purchased Minnehaha Park, it approved an expenditure of $250 to build two “rustic” bridges, one near the falls and another further downstream (Proceedings, June 19, 1893).

The park board built this "rustic" bridge in 1893. This photo was taken in 1896. (Minnesota Historical Society)

This is the bridge that resulted. In the MHS database, photos of this bridge are dated as early as ca. 1888, but all photos of this bridge had to be taken after 1893.

The 1910 stone arch bridge was actually made of reinforced concrete and given a facade of boulders found in the vicinity. (Minnesota Historical Society)

The next bridge was built by the park board in 1910 as noted in the park board’s 1910 annual report. The bridge was built of reinforced concrete and faced with boulders found in the park and surrounding area. A photo of the new bridge appeared in the 1910 annual report. In many photographs and postcards it was referred to as the “stone arch bridge.” This bridge was replaced in 1940 as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in the park.

The bridge was completed in 1940 as a WPA project. (Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Library)

The new bridge was made of concrete and faced with cut stone. (This photo is from the Minneapolis Collection at the Hennepin County Library, another priceless resource.) This is one of the five bridges that will be repaired and restored under the Partners in Preservation project.

To vote for Mill Ruins Park (educational archeological excavations of the mills that once stood beside the river) or Minnehaha Park go to Partners in Preservation on Facebook, “like” the page, then vote. (Voting continues only until October 12; you can vote once a day.) It’s a great opportunity to help Minneapolis parks get some funding that they might not get otherwise.

If you’re willing to share your photos of the bridge, send them to me at the address below.

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

Support Minneapolis Parks: Vote Minnehaha Park or Mill Ruins Park

You have a great opportunity to support Minneapolis parks this week by voting on Facebook in a Partners in Preservation contest. American Express has put up $1 million to restore sites of historic importance in the Twin Cities area. Twenty-five sites were nominated for funds including two Minneapolis parks: Minnehaha Park and Mill Ruins Park. The winner of the voting on Facebook will receive up to $125,000 of the money with the remainder to be  divided among the nominees by a committee of historical experts.

At Minnehaha the funds would be used to repair and restore the stone bridges over Minnehaha Creek. The Mill Ruins project would pay for educational archeological excavations of the site and continue efforts to reveal more of the historic mills. Two excellent projects.

You can vote once a day until October 12 here. The only caveat is that to vote you have to agree to share your Facebook profile information with American Express. Seems a small price to pay. Read the small print.

Tell your friends!

David C. Smith  minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com