May 16 – 19, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The 2024 Society for Industrial Archeology Annual Conference will be held May 16 – 19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, focusing on past industries in the Twin Cities and surrounding area.
Call for Papers (PDF Download)
The Mississippi River’s St. Anthony Falls provided the reason for Minneapolis to rise as a water-powered grain-milling center in the mid-19th century. The falls made Saint Paul, the Twin City to the east, the head of navigation on the Mississippi River. Together the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul attracted railroads and grew into the economic metropole for the United States’ expansion onto the north Great Plains and into the northern Rocky Mountains. Milling is no longer the heart of the Minneapolis economy, but railroads still are, and the economy of Minneapolis has diversified into other areas, which will be themes explored by the SIA tours on Thursday and Friday of the conference.
One of the tours will focus on the engineering infrastructure along the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls. Another tour will examine northeast Minneapolis. Historically Northeast, as it is called, housed a diverse array of industrial operations and an equally diverse group of ethnic neighborhoods. More recently, Northeast has been discovered by the artsy crowd and is widely considered the hippest area to live in the Twin Cities. The Northeast tour will visit both old and new industrial operations as well as industrial facilities at the heart of the cultural transition.
Over the past several decades, Minneapolis had developed into one of the United States’ centers for the medical-device industry, the theme of one of the planned tours. In the age of the Climate Crisis, sustainability has become an important objective for many engineering and industrial developments. One of the tours will focus on the theme of sustainability. Finally, there are still many “conventional” industrial operations in the Minneapolis area, which one of the tours will explore.
The conference hotel for the 2024 SIA conference is the Royal Sonesta, in Downtown Minneapolis. The hotels about two blocks from both the Blue and Green light rail routes. The Blue Line serves Downtown Minneapolis from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, and the Green Line connects Downtown Minneapolis to Amtrak’s Union Station in Downtown Saint Paul.
The Royal Sonesta is in walking distance to several important Minneapolis cultural attractions, including the Guthrie Theatre, Walker Art Center, and the Mill City Museum. The hotel is also connected to the Minneapolis Skyway System, a pioneering infrastructure that created a vibrant pedestrian commercial district at the second-floor level throughout Downtown Minneapolis. Covid-19 has greatly reduced the number of people who work downtown, thus create financial stress for that once-vibrant second-floor commercial zone. Nevertheless, the Skyway System is still walkable, and conference participants will be able to see how physical infrastructure developed to accommodate the concept. The weekend the SIA is in town, Minneapolis will also be conducting Doors Open Minneapolis, when about one hundred venues not normally open to the public will be open for viewing. SIA members in Minneapolis for the conference may also participate in Doors Open Minneapolis on Saturday or Sunday.
Caption for photo at top: General view of Pillsbury ‘A’ Mill complex along Main Street, looking northeast, Minneapolis, MN
Some sites of IA interest in Minneapolis
Mill City Museum. Interpreting the history of the flour-milling industry in Minneapolis, the museum was developed by the Minnesota Historical Society adjacent to the ruins of the Washburn A Mill, which was destroyed by fire in 1991 (SIAN 20 Spring 1991). The Guthrie Theater, built in 2006 and designed by Jean Nouvel, is on the left. Its giant cantilevered “endless bridge” offers a stunning view of the Mississippi River.
Northrup King Building. This giant warehouse, once owned by the seed company, Northrup King, now houses more than 300 artists’ studios and is at the heart of renaissance of northeast Minneapolis as a cultural center in the Twin Cities. The building, which will be included on one of the SIA tours, features the reinforced-concrete structural system of C.A.P. Turner.
St. Anthony Falls Dam. The dam covers the actual falls and prevents it from receding further upstream. The lock for the lock-and-dam complex is just off to the left. No longer operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lock-and-dam complex is now interpreted by the National Park Service. The open-spandrel concrete-arch 3rd Avenue South Bridge, designed by Frederick Cappelen and completed in 1918, is in the background.
Stone Arch Bridge. Built in 1883 for James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway, the bridge crosses the Mississippi River at St. Anthony Falls. In the background left is the stone Pillsbury A Mill, built in 1881. To the right are other structures of the Pillsbury milling complex. Both the Stone Arch Bridge and the Pillsbury A Mill are National Historic Landmarks.