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Vol. 48, No. 1-2                                1989



Scott F. Anfinson
Minnesota Historical Society

© 1989 Minnesota Archaeological Society


Table of Contents
Historical Background
Archaeological Site Inventory

- Bassett's Creek
- Gateway
- West Side Mill District
- Gasworks Bluff
- Brewery Flats
- Milwaukee Road
- Boom Island
- Hennepin-Central
- Nicollet Island
- East Side Mill District
- Interbank

Historical Figures and Photographs  (big thumbnails)   (medium)   (small)
References Cited
Chronology Chart

Archaeological Site Inventory

As with the Boom Island Area, the east side area near the river between Hennepin Avenue and Central Avenue (Figure 39) was initially part of what was known as St. Anthony's Upper Town. In order to spur the economic development of the area, Franklin Steele attempted to get the University of Minnesota located there. The first University building was built at the corner of Ortman and Bank Streets in 1851, but in 1856 the University moved to the southeast at its present location.

Unlike the west side, the completion of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge in 1854 did little to spur east side growth near the bridge. The commercial center for St. Anthony remained near the mill district despite the construction of the St. Charles Hotel in 1850, the Winslow House in 1856, and the First Universalist Church (Our Lady of Lourdes) in 1857.

The removal of the platform sawmills in 1870 and the installation of streetcars in 1875, spurred growth in the Hennepin - Central area and soon numerous small businesses occupied Main Street opposite the south end of Nicollet Island. By 1885, the area had finally become the principal business center for the east side. The construction of the Exposition Building in 1887 made the area a focal point of the central riverfront. With the completion of the 3rd Avenue Bridge in 1917, both ends of the Hennepin-Central district were linked with the west side.

The Hennepin - Central Area has continued to be an important commercial center in Minneapolis, although intensive re-development of the area has encountered considerable finacial difficulty. The area fronting on the river was extensively altered during the 1980s with the construction of the Riverplace apartments and numerous townhouses. These developments destroyed many archaeological sites, an effect that was not seriously considered by the developers, the city, and historic preservationists.

    HC-1. Hennepin - Central Commercial District 1st Ave. NE to Central Ave. between Main St. and 2nd St. (1875 - 1982)

Maps from 1872 map note a few structures in this area including the Winslow House, the First Universalist Church, the St. Anthony Iron Works, and Wensinger's Block (Figure 40). By 1885, many wooden and a few brick shops and small factories were present. Small brick buildings dominated the area by 1892. Some of the buildings were torn down by the mid-twentieth century, but most remained until the re-development of the area in the 1980s.

Most of the archaeological potentials of the area have been destroyed by the construction of Riverplace and the townhouses to the north. Artifact concentrations may exist immediately adjacent to the river.

References: SAFR (1980:75-85); Cook (1872); Sanborn (1885, 1912); Rascher (1892).

    HC-2. Winslow House Hotel, Prince St. between Bank St. and Central Avenue (1857 - 1886)

The construction of the Winslow House was completed in the spring of 1857. Its cost was estimated at $100,000. It was considered one of the finest hotels in the nation. It was a luxury hotel built to serve visitors to scenic St. Anthony Falls and was especially popular with southern tourists. The six-story limestone structure dominated the east side of the river for 30 years. Many early photographs of the central riverfront were taken from the roof of the Winslow House.

With the onset of the Civil War, the hotel lost much of its clientele and had to close. It stood vacant until 1872 when Macalaster College and the Minnesota College Hospital moved into the structure. It was torn down in 1886 for the construction of the Exposition Building. Some foundational remains may have survived the Exposition Building and later the Coca-Cola plant construction. Today the area is a parking lot.

References: Warner et al. (1881:368); SAFR (1980:76-77, 125); Shutter (1923:145-146); Swanholm (1976); Atwater (1893:40); Kane and Ominsky (1983:27).

    HC-3. Exposition Building, Prince Street between Bank St. and Central Ave. (1887 - 1940)

While Minneapolis had become a major industrial center in the mid-1880s, city fathers wanted to re-establish the city as a good place to visit, a role it had lost with the covering of St. Anthony Falls. Over $250,000 was raised in private funds to build an exposition building. The structure was built on the east side on the site of the Winslow House hotel. Designed by Minneapolis architect Issac Hodgson, the building was completed in 1887. Its "modified Renaissance" exterior was dominated by a 240' corner tower (Figure 41). The exterior walls were masonry and the interior had metal support structures.

Like the Winslow House before it, the Exposition Building dominated the landscape of the east side for many years. It initially featured displays of modern technology. In 1892, the national Republican Convention was held there, the only presidential nominating convention ever held in Minnesota. The building soon failed as a major convention center, however, and in 1903 was taken over by the International Stock Food Company. In the 1930s, it was used a merchandise warehouse for a mail order company; clerks used roller skates to travel through the large interior. The Exposition Building was torn down in 1940 for the construction of the Coca-Cola bottling plant. The bottling plant was torn down in the early 1980s.

The area is currently a parking lot. Some foundational remains may survive.

References: SAFR (1980:75, 78-79); Hudson (1908:61, 391, 528, 530).

    HC-4. St. Anthony Ironworks, 75 SE Main Street (1865-1879)

In 1865 Snow & Company built the St. Anthony Ironworks between the river and Main Street north of Central Avenue. It was a long, one-story frame structure. It burned in 1879 and the surviving equipment was purchased by the Union Iron Works. Some foundations may remain under riverbank fill.

References: Warner et al. (1881:407); Atwater (1893:644); City Directory (1878-79); Mississippi Valley Lumberman (3/30/1877); Mpls. Tribune (11/10/1872).

Vol. 48, No. 1-2  © 1989 The Minnesota Archaeological Society

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