Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2014 by the University of Virginia.
At its peak, the Washburn A Mill was the largest and most technically advanced mill in the world, part of an industrialization of agriculture that was transforming the United States. First built in 1874, the mill was destroyed by a flour dust explosion four years later, then rebuilt in 1880. The mill was powered by St. Anthony Falls, the only natural waterfall on the Mississippi River, and could produce enough flour for 12 million loaves of bread a day. Grain was brought in by rail, milled, and then loaded back into railcars for U.S. and international distribution.
Washburn A and the nearby Pillsbury A Mill (built in 1881) were critical elements in a 19th century economic boom for Minneapolis, earning it the nickname of "Flour Milling Capital of the World." The mill was shut down in 1965 and was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1991, but the remains have been converted into a museum run by the Minnesota Historical Society.
In collaboration with the Minnesota Historical Society, IATH produced a virtual model of the mill and the surrounding area as it was in 1885. Animation 1 is a fly-through of the digital reconstruction of the Washburn A Mill and the immediately surrounding area along the Mississippi River. Animation 2 shows a close-up view of the digitally reconstructed mill's windows, slate roof, and cupola. Animation 3 begins with a close-up of the digitally reconstructed Washburn A Mill along with the neighboring Humboldt Mill and Washburn warehouse, then zooms out to show the surrounding area of 19th century Minneapolis.