BEST RENOVATION Minneapolis 1998 -
England has its ruined abbeys, Greece the Parthenon. Minneapolis has the legacy of flour, and this picturesque ruin to commemorate it. In 1873 Cadwallader Washburn built what was then the largest flour mill in the world at the foot of Portland Avenue. Powered by the water from St. Anthony Falls, it was just one of dozens of flour, lumber, and textile concerns that combined to make Minneapolis one of the largest centers of industrial output in the nation. Since the mid-'60s, when General Mills joined the suburban exodus from downtown Minneapolis, the Washburn A Mill has stood empty on the riverfront, and in 1991 a fire nearly leveled the building. But thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society, the Washburn--or what's left of it--is getting a second lease on life. The society is building an interpretive center of grand proportions right inside the ruins. Working waterways will demonstrate the turbines that ran the mill. Exhibits will illuminate the lives of men and women who worked on the riverfront. Completion isn't scheduled until 2000 or so; in the meantime stop by the St. Anthony Falls Visitors Center (open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday in St. Anthony Main, 1001 SE Main Street; 627-5433) for exhibits and a variety of guided tours.