History of the Mill City Museum
The Mill City Museum is a modern glass-and-steel building constructed in the ruins of a historical mill. The original mill building was owned by General Mills and produced Gold Medal Flour for almost 90 years before it closed for economic reasons in 1976.
The building was abandoned and occupied by squatters until in 1991, a massive fire gutted the building and all the contents. Firefighters could only save the outer walls and tower of the building. The entire interior and almost all the abandoned milling equipment was destroyed.
The fire had one benefit - reviving interest in preserving the crumbling milling district. The Minnesota Historical Society was given control of the site. The remaining walls were reinforced, and a dramatic glass-and-steel modern structure was built inside the ruins.
Things to See at the Mill City MuseumThe Ruin Courtyard
The modern building occupies a small portion of what was once the largest mill in Minnesota. The walls of the old mill, reinforced but otherwise left just as the fire left them, twisted beams and all, form an open air courtyard. Visitors to the courtyard have the old mill walls on three sides, and the modern building on the fourth. The open air space looks much older than it is, reminiscent of of a medieval castle.
The courtyard is often closed in the winter. Accumulating snow and ice in the windows and alcoves of the walls tends to fall off and is hazardous to visitors. If you will be disappointed to not go into the courtyard, visit in the summer or call ahead to see if the courtyard is open. Even if the courtyard is closed, it can be viewed from several places inside the museum.
A viewing gallery on the roof gives visitors a spectacular aerial view of the courtyard, the Mississippi river and surrounding warehouse district.
Scheduled every half-hour, an ten minute seated elevator ride takes visitors up and down eight floors of the mill. Restored mill equipment, short films, lights, sound, and commentary from actual mill workers make for an atmospheric, and at times, moving experience. While the ride is designed to be educational, rather than scary, there is a loud flash and bang, which may frighten younger children.
Interactive Exhibits and the Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat MovieMinneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat
Minneapolis in 19 Minutes Flat is a short film about the city's history from local humorist Kevin Kling. With animation, historical footage, and Kling's own commentary and memories, it's an entertaining and whirlwind tour through the history of Mill City.Water Lab
Particularly enjoyed by younger visitors is the Water Lab. Don waterproofs and build a dam, build a bridge, float logs downstream to a sawmill, and see if you can make water wheels turn in scale models of the Mississippi.Baking Lab
Wonder why it smells so good here? A demonstration kitchen provides free samples of freshly baked bread and pastries from professional chefs. Visitors can also pretend to be Betty Crocker and help with grinding flour and baking bread.
Visiting the Mill City Museum
The Mill City Museum is on the intersection of Second Street and Chicago Avenue in east downtown Minneapolis. The Gold Medal Flour sign high on the roof is visible for blocks around. If you miss the sign, look out for the dramatic dark blue Guthrie Theater, a hundred yards east of the Mill City Museum on Second Street.
The Mill City Museum Website
704 South Second Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Parking and Transportation
Several parking municipal parking lots are close by the museum, including one directly opposite the museum on Second Street. Parking fees multiply during events at the nearby Guthrie Theater and Metrodome Stadium.
The nearest Light Rail station is the Downtown East/Metrodome stop, two blocks south of the museum. Alight at this station and walk north on Chicago Avenue, and the museum is on the left when you arrive at Second Street.Cafes and Restaurants
Mill City Museum has an on-site cafe selling snacks, sandwiches and drinks. Admission to the museum is not necessary to visit the cafe. Other nearby dining options include the Guthrie Theater's restaurants, and the upmarket Spoonriver Restaurant next door.Accessibility
The museum is fully wheelchair accessible, including the elevator ride, observation tower and ruin courtyard.