“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Minneapolis in Hennepin County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Beneath the Surface


—Saint Anthony Falls Heritage Trail —

Beneath the Surface Marker image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, August 20, 2007
1. Beneath the Surface Marker
Inscription.  This 1893 map shows the system of tunnels that ran under the West Side Milling District–part of the complex waterworks that brought energy from the 50-foot drop of the falls into the mills. Water from the river above the falls flowed through gates into a man-made canal. Next, the water streamed through headraces to turn the turbines that drove the machinery, eventually returning to the river through tailraces to complete the circuit of energy without combustion.

marker captions:
Drawing from a 1996 archaeological report of the north wall of the waterpower canal at the Pettit Mill. Water flowed through penstock openings to drive turbines in the mills.

Most of the flour companies had demolished their mills along the river by 1950, and gravel covered their foundations during the building of the Upper Lock in the 1960s. Still, many remnants of the milling era remained when this photograph was taken. The Minneapolis Eastern Railway, whose trestle looms in the foreground, once carried box cars to the mills. The Washburn A Mill appears in the foreground. It was the last mill here to operate on direct-drive waterpower.
Tunnels and Foundations image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, August 20, 2007
2. Tunnels and Foundations
The A Mill closed in 1965 and burned in 1991.

In 1885 engineer William de la Barre (in the bowler hat) persuaded mill owners to build more efficient water power systems. Workers lengthened the canal, increased the drop to the turbines, and rebuilt railroad trestles. Visible in the photo are the Crown Roller Mill (under the arrow), the Stone Arch Bridge, and a trestle support.

De la Barre supervised work on new tailraces in about 1890. The area shown here is located just below the current entrance to the parking lot at the Upper Lock.
Erected by the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board.
Location. 44° 58.819′ N, 93° 15.359′ W. Marker is in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Hennepin County. Marker can be reached from West River Parkway west of Portland Avenue South. Touch for map. Marker is attached to the south railing of the Stone Arch Bridge. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55401, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The West Side Milling District (a few steps from this marker); Changing the Shape of the Falls (within shouting distance of this marker); Stone Arch Bridge (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Historic Milling District
Foundations and Tailrace Canal image. Click for full size.
By Keith L, August 20, 2007
3. Foundations and Tailrace Canal
(about 700 feet away); New Uses for Old Mills (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Washburn and Pillsbury Clans (approx. ¼ mile away); a different marker also named The Stone Arch Bridge (approx. ¼ mile away); Father Hennepin Bluffs (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Minneapolis.
Categories. Industry & CommerceMan-Made FeaturesWaterways & Vessels
More. Search the internet for Beneath the Surface.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on March 1, 2010, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,337 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on March 1, 2010, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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