Meeting Up in the Mill City

Over the weekend, Pete and I met up with Michigan folks, Jennifer and her husband, Karl.  Jennifer and I were friends in high school, and we recently re-connected through Facebook.  When we were in Michigan over Christmas, she and I had lunch one afternoon and it was as though time had never intervened.  We spent three hours chattering – wine included.  🙂

Their daughter, a cellist, is touring with the group Owl City – how cool is that?  I love their song Fireflies – have a listen:

The band was playing in Minneapolis over the weekend, and her proud parents partied with them until the wee hours.  We got together on Sunday afternoon to show them around Minneapolis.

It’s hard when you are limited to an afternoon to give first-time visitors an impression.  I was relieved when Jennifer confirmed that a visit to the Mall of America was definitely not necessary.  Since she and Karl are interested in art, architecture and history like we are, I came up with a fair weather plan that could be modified if Mother Nature didn’t cooperate.

Turkey - Backyard

We started Sunday morning off with a visitor out back.  It seems as though this turkey hen thinks there are plenty of pickings in our yard, as she has shown up the past several mornings.  Pete followed her back across the street where she is preparing a nest.  This seems crazy for city folk, doesn’t it?  Any day with a wild turkey in your yard has to be great, no?

On our way downtown from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, we picked Jennifer and Karl up at their hotel, the posh Le Meridien Chambers – which elicited rave reviews  One quirk about downtown Minneapolis hotels:  they’re usually far less expensive on the weekends than you might expect.  Le Meridien is located in the thick of things off Hennepin Avenue, within walking distance of the State Theater where Owl City performed.

We drove the few blocks to the West Bank of the Mississippi River, through the Warehouse District to Mill Ruins Park.  This park is the centerpiece of a revitalization effort that has uncovered the remnants of the milling operations in the 19th century that catalyzed industrial growth in Minneapolis.  Many companies were born here that are household names today:  General Mills, Pillsbury, Gold Medal Flour, Xcel Energy, Washburn Crosby (later WCCO radio and television).


In the 19th century, this area was the largest direct-drive (unassisted) power facility in the world, harnessing the force of the “Mighty Mississip” to become a leading producer of flour which was shipped internationally.

The park encompasses excavated ruins and waterpower features, and incorporates the historic Stone Arch bridge which is now limited to foot traffic.  The bridge offers an unparalleled view of the city skyline.  We joked to Jennifer and Karl that we would ensure they could stand in the middle of the Mississippi River and that is exactly what we all did!  Here is the view looking west from the bridge:


The boxy navy blue building with the yellow balcony on the center left in the photo below is the Guthrie Theater, where we took you in this post.


The Stone Arch bridge spans the river from the Mill Ruins Park to the Father Hennepin Bluffs Park on the East Bank.  There are quiet places along the banks of the Mississippi in this area:


When our amble across the Mississippi was finished, we headed over to Nicollet Island, site of some of the most well-preserved 19th century dwellings in the city.  We wanted a seat in the bar of the historic Nicollet Island Inn, a former sash and door factory built of native limestone that has been everything from a flour mill to a Salvation Army Shelter since 1893.  Today, it is a romantic experience with beautiful antique appointments and stained glass windows.  I think the bar area has the best view of the Minneapolis river skyline that any restaurant venue offers.

Alas, the Inn was just finishing up its Sunday brunch seating, so we chose to finish our afternoon off at one of our favorite haunts in our own neighborhood:  Cooper.  This is an authentic Irish bar with the same kind of 19th century ambiance.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in rollicking conversation.

All too soon the afternoon came to a close.  Jennifer and Karl were probably too kind to say so, but it seemed to me that if I had been up until 2:30 a.m. I’d want a nap, especially surrounded by the luxury at Le Meridien!  All in all, it was a wonderful day!  We hope they come back and visit again real soon!

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  1. says

    Now that’s my kind of day, Betsy; rollicking conversations and explorations. I’m intrigued by that photograph of Mill Ruins Park. And, I loved the song Fireflies. It’s great when you reconnect with old friends after so many years have gone by.

    I recently reconnected with an old boyfriend after 8 years and we chat way on the phone now every couple of weeks. It’s as if no time has passed.
    .-= Davina´s last blog ..9 Animal Totem Cards for Your Muse =-.

  2. Betsy Wuebker says

    Hi Davina – You’d love the Mill City Museum adjacent to the park, as well. It is a striking combination of a limestone ruin and sleek glass and steel within the older shell. I’ve not yet been inside – that was the part of the plan that would have occurred in rainy weather! Fun that you’ve reconnected with someone recently, too!

  3. Betsy Wuebker says

    Hi Erin – Welcome to PassingThru – and thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed. The turkey has come around for the last several mornings right at 7 a.m. Crazy!

    Hi Jannie – Yeah, those ruins are awesome, and you’d love the museum, too. Come on up and time and we’ll take you pubbing! Thanks.

  4. says

    Hi Betsy .. Minneapolis is ‘way north’ .. my geography of the States isn’t too good .. & I just looked .. is it a watershed area? Why doesn’t the Mississippi drain into the Lakes?

    Stone bridges – a lot of Scots came over and certainly built a great many bridges in Canada .. perhaps yours was too? It looks an amazing bridge – especially when we know how much water passes underneath – & it’s stood the test of time.

    The old mill – looks really interesting .. and seeing where the industrial giants started .. the industrial age is really interesting ..

    the island – I’ve got sash windows here .. and I wouldn’t replace my wood ones .. I’m sure I’m healthier with wooden windows .. letting the air in & not confined to rotating air in permanently double glazed rooms – but then I’m in England and it’s not so cold! Usually!

    Good theatre – and I loved the music .. couldn’t hear the cello?! But give me the room and the toys any day! Always wanted a train set – my brothers got one .. but it was for them .. ??!!

    & the pubbing – me too .. I’ll be there sometime!! Have another good weekend .. lovely tour of the city – thanks .. Hilary
    .-= Hilary´s last blog ..The Okavango Delta – the perfect place to Safari or holiday? = Yes for me! Part 3/3 – Sights and sounds .. =-.