BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWN GUESTS Minneapolis 2007 - Mill Ruins Park
Readers' Choice: Mall of America
The ruined remains of the world's greatest flour empire may not stack up to, say, the Roman Colosseum or the Khmer temples of Angkor Wat. But the excavated tunnels, tailraces, trestles, and other 19th-century stone relics of Mill Ruins Park are still a sight to behold, more so than any other attraction on the burgeoning downtown riverfront. And that includes the Guthrie, whose cultural importance and internationally applauded looks don't hold a candle to the immolated husk of the Washburn A Mill, now home to the Mill City Museum. (Consider this: If it weren't for those flour mills and the mighty waterfall that powered them, you'd probably live in Duluth right now, or, heaven forbid, St. Louis.) Flour milling is an inordinately combustible industry, and Minneapolis's early mills had a nasty habit of exploding, often taking neighboring mills with them. In the 1870s alone, 14 mills near St. Anthony Falls burned to the ground or exploded. When this happened, construction crews found the best way to rebuild was to bury the remains of the old mill and put another directly on top. This process made the area ripe for archeological digging, and today visitors can explore every level of the city's flour milling history, from the foundation of the Minneapolis Mill (burned in 1871) to the top of the Washburn A (exploded in 1878, rebuilt in 1879, burned in 1991). All of which shows why Mill Ruins Park is the perfect place to bring out-of-town guests: It's a beautiful area, sure, but it also tells a story. Not only of why those old mills are (mostly) gone, but of why the city is here in the first place.