SIA Minneapolis 2024 Tours & Events

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  • Opening program, Brian McMahon, “Concrete and the Building of Minneapolis & Saint Paul”
  • Minneapolis Central Library


  • Pre-conference tours*
  • Welcome Reception for New Members
  • Evening Reception at Conference Hotel


  • Choose one of three all-day bus tours
  • SIA Banquet*


  • Full day of research presentations & exhibits
  • Annual Business Meeting & Luncheon
  • Dinner on your own


  • Post-conference tours*

*Additional fees apply

The 2024 SIA Conference also includes planning activities for a new Iron & Steel Heritage Forum (see below).

CONFERENCE EVENTS – Included in Registration

Event schedules tentative and subject to change.

Wednesday May 15

6:45-8:00 PM Opening Public Program: (Free Program Open to SIA Members and the Public), Minneapolis Central Library, Doty Board Room, 300 Nicolet Mall, Minneapolis Central Library

Brian McMahon, “Concrete and the Building of Minneapolis & Saint Paul,” 6:45 – 8:00 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library.

Brian McMahon is an architect and free-lance architectural historian.  His book, How the Ford Motor Company Transformed Minnesota over the Past 100 Years, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2016.

Thursday, May 16

6 PM – 6:30 PM New Members Opening Reception (conference hotel)

6:30 PM – 8 PM Thursday’s Opening Reception will be held at the conference hotel.  There will be appetizers and a cash bar and a welcome to Minneapolis.

Friday May 17 Tours

Choose one of the following all-day tours (lunch and transportation included)Details of the tours are subject to change.

F1 – Industrial Sites in Minneapolis (8:00 – 5:00) This tour will visit an eclectic array of industrial sites in Minneapolis. It will visit the 2011 Metro Transit’s Light Rail Support Facility where equipment is maintained for the light rail system that opened in 2004. Next up are the steam plants of the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, one of the largest campuses in the country with over 50,000 students. The first plant, now known as the Southeast Plant, was built in 1903 as an electric generating station for streetcars and is on the National Register. Since “the U” took ownership in 1977, several older boilers have been removed and it is equipped with boilers that can burn, coal, natural gas, or biomass. The U’s Main Energy Plant (MEP) is in a building the university built in 1912. After acquiring the Southeast Plant, the Main Plant was neglected for many years but has now been completely rebuilt as a state-of-the-art energy plant to provide steam for heating, cooling and electricity. Next on the tour will be Bell Manufacturing, a custom metal fabricator in Northeast Minneapolis that cuts, bends, welds, and finishes sheet steel and aluminum to make furniture components for Room and Board.  Last stop will be the Minneapolis Water Works filtration and water treatment plant. Minneapolis was the first city in Minnesota to establish a public water works. The current complex of buildings in the suburb of Fridley was built in the early 20th century, while the treatment infrastructure is state-of-the-art. Lunch is included.

F2 – Faribault Industries (7:30 – 5:00) Faribault, about 50 miles south of the Twin Cities, began as a trading post in 1835 and is the county seat of Rice County. With its rich soils, Rice County has been a productive agricultural area since the mid-nineteenth century. Early industries in Faribault added value to farm products, and many of Faribault’s businesses continue that legacy, including Faribault Foods, a huge vegetable-canning plant that we will not be able to see. Other enterprises have moved to Faribault to build on its industrial history, including Sage Glass, a maker of high-tech specialty glass and Daikin, a Japanese manufacturer of HVAC equipment. Daikin, which has won a number of sustainability awards for the efficiency of its products, has its U.S. corporate headquarters in Plymouth (a western suburb of Minneapolis), two manufacturing facilities in Faribault, and one in Owatonna (seventeen miles south of Faribault.  After visiting one of Daikin’s plants in Faribault, we tour Faribault Woolen Mill which spins and weaves wool to make its famous line of blankets and other products. On our way to Faribault, we’ll stop at the Seneca Wastewater Treatment Plant in Eagan, the third largest of several wastewater treatment plants operated by the Twin Cities’ Metropolitan Council. Last stop for the tour, on the way back from Faribault, will the Schmidt Artist Lofts, in the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company Historic District in Saint Paul. Built in 1901, the complex that once housed one of the largest breweries in the Upper Midwest has now been adapted for multiple uses including to provide affordable housing and studio space for artists. Lunch is included.

F3 – Saint Paul Industries (8:00 – 5:00) This tour will explore a portion of the industrial heritage of Saint Paul, Minneapolis’ twin city to the east. It will include a tour of the Minnesota Transportation Museum, located in the old Great Northern Railway’s Jackson Street Roundhouse. The museum holds a large collection of steam and diesel locomotives and rolling stock, both freight and passenger cars. The museum’s machine shop is equipped with a large collection of old machine tools, and volunteers will be operating those machine tools during our visit, as they make and repair parts needed for restoration projects. We’ll also visit Tolerance Tool, a small machine shop that makes molds used by other firms who use injection molding to make parts for the medical-device and automotive industries.  We’ll also tour the dock of Upper River Services, which provides towboat services for barge traffic using the Port of Saint Paul.  We’ll see their control center and a barge-cleaning operation.  The last stop of the day will be at Waterous, which has been manufacturing fire-fighting equipment in South Saint Paul since the 1880s.  The last leg of the tour will also include a drive-by of the Armour Gates, the last surviving structure of the Armour Stockyards that were once an anchor of South Saint Paul’s economy. Lunch is included.

Friday Evening, May 17

FB – Friday Banquet Dinner (See below under Optional Activities).

Saturday, May 18

8:30 – 11:30 – MORNING PRESENTATION SESSIONS (Coffee and soft drinks will be available; session topics, presentation titles, and a list of speakers will be posted on the SIA website:




5:00 – 6:00 – Cash Bar, and Poster Presenters will be at their posters

Saturday Evening: Dinner on Your Own

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES (Extra fees apply)

Thursday May 16 Tours

Choose one of the following all-day tours (lunch and transportation included)Details of the tours are subject to change.

T1 St. Anthony Falls – Waterpower & Milling (9:00 – 5:00) – $90 – This tour will focus on the waterpower at the St. Anthony Falls, the only natural, major waterfall on the Mississippi River and the primary reason for the existence of Minneapolis. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the 50-foot drop provided by the Falls allowed the development of extensive waterpower resources, first for lumber and sawmilling, then for flour milling, and later for hydroelectricity, meanwhile creating the world’s flour milling center from the 1880s to the 1930s. Today the entire area is a National Register Historic District divided into the East and West Side Milling Districts. The tour will visit sites on both sides of the river. On the west side is the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, which until recently provided river access around the Falls, and Mill City Museum, constructed in the fire-ravaged ruins of National Historic Landmark 1879 Washburn A Mill, later home of General Mills. Joining the two sides of the river just below the Falls is the 1883 Stone Arch Bridge built by James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway to connect the two sides of the city. It is currently closed at its midpoint for major rehab work.  Moving to the east side, the tour will gather in the University of Minnesota’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (1938), formerly Hydraulic Lab, it is a fluid mechanics research facility. Then, a walk outside along the interpretive trails of Water Power Park will reveal more of the district’s history. Two hydroelectric facilities are next. The Main Street Station was built in 1911 to replace an 1894-95 power plant and contains original generating equipment although it is no longer operating. Nearby is Xcel Energy’s Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Plant (1908), where you can stand next to an operating generator, powered by a turbine in the Mississippi River just below. Finally, the west side tour will include the National Historic Landmark Pillsbury A Mill, the largest flour mill in the world when completed in 1881. Now converted to affordable housing for artists, the building retains its original exterior architecture, unique among Minneapolis mills. Lunch is included.

T2Northeast Minneapolis (8:00 –5:00) – $80 – One of the industrial areas of Minneapolis, Northeast (or “Nordeast” as many Minneapolitans say it) has also long been known for its rich array of ethnic neighborhoods. In recent decades, it has made a transition to being the “hippest” area in the Twin Cities.  USA Today has recognized Northeast as the Best Arts District in the USA in 2022 and 2023, and it has been nominated again for 2024. On this tour, we’ll visit three industrial operations and an industrial building that epitomizes Northeast’s transition to a hip arts district. Our first stop will be Electric Machinery Co., which for more than 100 years has been making giant electric motors. We’ll tour Graco, which began in Minneapolis in 1926 and makes top-of-the-line spraying equipment for paints, adhesives, and other applications. Then we’ll visit Production Engineering, a family-owned manufacturer of weldments and housings for high-tech electronical components used in the defense industry. We’ll end the day with a visit to NKB, the former Northrup King Building. Founded in 1884, the Northrup, King and Company specialized (and still specializes) in seeds suitable for agricultural production in northern climates. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NKB opened in 1917 and once received, sacked, and shipped seeds for growers. After closing in 1986, NKB has been converted to a thriving arts center, housing more than 300 artists’ studios. We’ll get good views of the structure in the basement and then have time to roam the building and see some of the artists and their work. Lunch is included.


FB – Friday Banquet Dinner (6:00 – 9:00; THE BUS TO TAKE YOU TO THE VENUE DEPARTS THE HOTEL AT 5:30 P.M.) – $85 – Friday’s Banquet is being held at The Market at Malcolm Yards, a multi-cultural food court and events venue in the old Harris Machinery Building.  The Market features nine food vendors and a bar. The SIA has reserved one of the events room, and banquet attendees will each have a food card for purchasing meals at the vendors’ counters.

The Harris Machinery Building was built in 1889 by the Peteler Portable Railway Manufacturing Co., which made a patented side-dump railcar and portable track system. Gray Tractor Company occupied the building in 1917, and Harris Machinery Company moved in in 1928.  Harris Machinery, which resold cargo damaged on rail cars, took over the building in 1928. The Market opened in July 2021. Malcolm Yards, which is near the athletic complexes of the University of Minnesota East Bank Campus, is an old industrial area, much of which has been redeveloped for affordable housing.

Sunday May 19 Tours

S1 – Mississippi River/Port of Saint Paul Boat Tour (11:00 – 3:00) – $100 – You won’t want to miss this opportunity to take a boat trip down the industrialized waterway at the head of navigation on the Mississippi River. Barges carry fertilizer, salt, cement, and aggregate upstream to the Twin Cities and carry agricultural commodities downstream.  We’ll be aboard the Jonathan Padelford, which docks at Harriet Island, opposite Downtown Saint Paul. John Anfinson, retired NPS Superintendent of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and prominent historian of the Mississippi River, will be our guide. You’ll pass under historic bridges that access Downtown Saint Paul and get close to many of the docks that serve the river’s barge traffic. Dr. Anfinson will point out other important cultural and natural features visible from the boat along that part of the Mississippi River. A lunch buffet is included and will be served on the boat.

S2 – Minneapolis Warehouse District Walking Tour (10:00 – 12:00) – $15 – Meet in the lobby of the Royal Sonesta at 9:45 AM for a walk to the Warehouse District. Join architectural historian, Rolf Anderson, who wrote the district’s 1987 National Register Nominationfor a stroll through the remarkably intact district.  Some of the warehouses still serve industrial functions and many have been adapted to new uses.  The district is on the north side of Downtown Minneapolis and next to Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) and Target Center (home of the Minnesota Timberwolves).  That location has helped the district, now called the North Loop, to evolve a vibrant cultural scene. Participants need to be physically capable of walking approximately 2 miles.


Saturday 7-9pm,  Informal get-together for the Iron and Steel Heritage Forum: The soon-to-be launched Iron and Steel Heritage Forum invites everyone interested in iron and steel, past, present and future, to join us in an informal meeting to meet each other.  (Open to all, no charge)

Sunday 8-9am: Iron and Steel Heritage Forum Workshop with representatives from iron and steel heritage organizations. We will meet to review proposed plans for affiliate members of ISHF and get suggestions and feedback. (Open to all, no charge)

Sunday 9-10am: Iron and Steel Heritage Forum Workshop with everyone interested in the ISHF. We will meet to review proposed plans for ISHF members and get suggestions and feedback. (Open to all, no charge)

Venues for the Iron & Steel Heritage Forum will be announced closer to the events.