On a warm and windy summer morning, there is no better place to stand for a few minutes than the west end of the Stone Arch Bridge, where the Mississippi gurgles in a brown flood over the only waterfall between here and the Gulf of Mexico, and where the smokestacks of the east bank poke up into the sky. It's a good place for cloud watching, and if the morning is clear and bright and not too hot, there will be people jogging or walking or just standing along the edge of the water. The riverbank is sandy and grown over with crabgrass, milkweed, and wiry wasteland scrub trees. Here and there, crumbling bits of limestone wall jut out of the undergrowth. They are the old foundations of the great milling district that once ran down what is now First Street between Portland and Chicago. From the middle of the 19th Century until the onset of the Great Depression, the streets here were crowded with giant textile and flour mills with names like Zenith, Occidental, and King Midas. When the district went into decline, the old mills burned and were not rebuilt, or were demolished and buried by the Army Corps of Engineers beneath strata of gravel and dirt. The city grew up, and the ruins were forgotten and left to disintegrate... More >>>