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The
Minnesota
Archaeologist
Vol. 48, No. 1-2                                1989

ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE
CENTRAL MINNEAPOLIS RIVERFRONT

PART 1: HISTORICAL OVERVIEW AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL POTENTIALS

Scott F. Anfinson
Minnesota Historical Society

© 1989 Minnesota Archaeological Society



TABLE OF CONTENTS


Preface
Table of Contents
Introduction
Sources
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
Milwaukee Road

In order to give the West Side Mill District access to Eastern manufacturers and markets, it was critical to obtain railroad links. In the early 1860s, a number of prominent Minneapolis businessmen purchased the five blocks of land immediately southwest of the mill district for $9,000 and offered the land free of charge as an incentive to promote railroad construction. In addition, the Minneapolis Mill Company offered free waterpower for repair shops to any railroad occupying the parcel.

In 1864, the Minnesota Central Railway purchased the Minneapolis and Cedar Valley Railroad which had been one of the original four land grant railroads in Minnesota and the only one to actually accomplish some construction. The Minnesota Central accepted the Minneapolis West Side Mill District offers and in 1865 built a depot, extensive yards, a shop complex, and a roundhouse just west of the mill district.

In 1867, the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad bought the Minnesota Central Railway thus obtaining the five blocks of land along with the recently built facilities. In 1874, the Milwaukee and St. Paul changed its name to the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad reflecting its recently acquired more direct connections with Chicago. The name was later shortened to the Milwaukee Road.

In 1876, the Milwaukee Road built an attractive Italianate passenger depot fronting on Washington Avenue. The depot was replaced in 1898 by the present Milwaukee Road Depot, consisting of a brick passenger depot and an iron train shed. Earlier freight houses to the east of the passenger depot continued to be used. The Milwaukee Road Depot closed in 1971 and is now vacant, entangled in web of legal problems. The freight depots have been torn down over the last several years, although the headhouse of an 1879 structure still remains.

The Milwaukee Road area extends from 3rd Avenue S. to 8th Avenue S. between 2nd Street and Washington Avenue (Figure 35). All of the railroad tracks in this area have been removed. Much of the area is currently parking lots.

    MR-1. Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Depot, 320 Washington Ave. S. (1876-1898)

In the early 1870s, the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad had a depot in Minneapolis that was a wooden structure on 2nd Street S. It soon proved inadequate for the rapidly growing traffic. In 1876, the railroad built a new passenger depot on Washington Avenue a block west of the old depot.

The new depot was an elaborate brick structure in an Italianate style with unattached but complimentary baggage buildings on either side. The depot was 130'x40' and two stories high with a third story on the central tower. The baggage houses were linked one-story structures; the one to the southeast was 40'x40' and the one to the northwest was 10'x15'. A turntable was constructed northwest of the depot at the corner of Washington Avenue and 3rd Avenue S. In 1879 a long, brick in-bound freight depot was constructed along 2nd Street S. and two years later a similar wooden out-bound freight depot was built between the brick freight house and the depot. The brick freight house was expanded to the south in 1904.

The turntable was torn-up in 1897 for the construction of the new Milwaukee Road passenger depot. With the completion of the new depot in 1898, the Italianate depot was torn-down for the construction of an iron train shed. The wooden freight depot was torn-down in the mid-1970s. The brick freight depot was torn down in 1990 except for the head house facing 3rd Avenue. Some foundations of the passenger depot may remain below the Milwaukee Road train shed. Foundations of the freight depots probably exist under parking lots.

References: Mpls. Tribune (11/6/98); Mpls. Board of Trade (1888:90).

    MR-2. Minnesota Central/Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Depot, 411-417 S. 2nd St. (1865-1904)

The depot built by the Minnesota Central Railway in 1865 fronted on 2nd Street S. between 4th and 5th Avenues. It was a split-level wooden structure built in 1865. It was 155'x40' with a two-story portion on the northwest and a one-story portion on the southeast. A wooden one-story carpenter shop (105'x40') stood just southwest of the depot across several lines of track. The depot was purchased by the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in 1867.

When a new passenger depot was constructed by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad in 1876, the old depot was converted into a freight depot. The carpenter shop was removed in 1881. The depot was torn down in 1904 and a brick addition to the Milwaukee Road's in-bound freight depot was built on the site.

Some foundational remnants may still be extant below the parking lot that now occupies the site.

References: Prosser (1966:12, 21, 140); Cook (1872); Hopkins (1872); Mpls. Eastern RR Map (1880); Atwater (1893:335); Warner et al. (1881:334-335).

    MR-3. Minnesota Central Railway Shops, 601-605 S. 2nd St. (1865-1904)

The Minnesota Central's shop complex built in 1865 was dominated by two stone structures that obtained waterpower via a line-shaft from the North Star Woolen mill turbine. The four-story car shop (130' x 45') stood at the corner of 2nd Street S. and 6th Avenue (Figure 36). The three-story machine shop (120' x 50') was just southeast of the car shop.

South of the stone buildings were a number of one-story wooden buildings including a machine shop (60'x35'), a blacksmith shop (75'x40') and a boiler shop (50'x35'). The stone machine shop and the wooden buildings were torn down in the early 1880s for the expanding yards of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad which had purchased the Minnesota Central in 1867. The stone car shop was leased for storage after 1885 and was torn down in 1904.

Some foundations probably remain beneath the parking lot that now occupies the site.

References: Greenleaf (1887); Mpls. Eastern RR Map (1880); Bromley (1890); Kane (1987:59).

    MR-4. Minnesota Central Railway Roundhouse, 711 S. 2nd St. (1865-ca.1883)

In 1865, the Minnesota Central Railway developed the five blocks southwest of the mill district into an extensive railroad complex. At the southeast end of the complex near the corner of 2nd Street S. and 8th Avenue, the railway built a large roundhouse (Figure 36). It was in the shape of a half-circle with a diameter of 240'. The 14 bays were 60' deep. The building was two stories high and was probably built of wood. A turn-table was in the middle. It was torn down in the early 1880s for the expanding yards of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad.

Some foundations probably remain beneath the parking lot that now occupies the site.

References: Cook (1872); Mpls. Eastern RR Map (1880).


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

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