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Sources - Papers








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


Because the central Minneapolis riverfront is located within the heart of a large urban center, written sources of information regarding potential archaeological sites are numerous. These sources are available at libraries, public agencies, and private businesses. While it was impossible to visit all record locations for this literature search, most pertinent sources can be obtained at locations that are readily accessible to the public.

The libraries of principal value to this report were the Minneapolis Public Library (MPL) in downtown Minneapolis and the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) library at the capitol complex in St. Paul. Both contain excellent collections of books, periodicals, maps, manuscripts, and photographs. Public agencies where research materials were viewed include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District Office, the archives of the city of Minneapolis in the old courthouse, and the Minneapolis Department of Inspections office in downtown Minneapolis.

Private companies with important reference files that were consulted include Northern States Power and Minnegasco. Numerous individuals were also valuable sources of information and this publication owes a significant debt to several of these individuals. Notable among these include historians Jeffrey Hess, Robert Frame, Nicholas Westbrook, and Lucile Kane, and librarians Dorothy Burke and John Walstrom. City officials, corporate employees, and riverfront workers also assisted this literature search.


A number of histories of the city of Minneapolis have been written over the past century and they were of varying usefulness to this report. The two most valuable histories are Warner et al. History of Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis (1881) and Atwater History of the City of Minneapolis (1893). Both contain a wealth of data regarding nineteenth century Minneapolis. They also contain numerous contradictions, however, especially with regard to dates. Most early histories such as Atwater are organized around bibliographies which makes it difficult to rapidly find information about particular sites.

The Hudson (1907), Holcome and Bingham (1914), and Shutter (1923) histories of Minneapolis were also consulted, but they rely heavily on Warner et al. and Atwater for their data. Several recent illustrated histories, Stipanovich (1982) and Kane and Ominsky (1983), contain many enlightening photographs which supplement Bromley's Minneapolis Album (1890), but provide limited new historical details regarding sites along the West River Parkway.

Topical studies were extremely helpful to this report, the most outstanding of which is Lucile Kane's The Falls of St. Anthony: The Waterfall That Built Minneapolis on the industrial growth and decline of the St. Anthony Falls area. This very readable and informative book originally published in 1966 and was updated in 1987. Another valuable book is Saint Anthony Falls Rediscovered (Berman 1980) which provides brief area histories and architectural inventories for riverfront historic structures. It is hereafter cited as SAFR.

With regard to particular industries, the following books were most helpful: Sawmilling - Hotchkiss (1898), Larson (1949); Flour Milling - Frame (1977,1980), Stone (1878), Kuhlman (1929), Gray (1954), Storck and Teague (1952); Brewing - Rich (1903); Railroads - Prosser (1966). Sections of the already cited Minneapolis histories were also crucial to understanding the various riverfront industries.

Other books that proved very useful include the following: The City Directories were invaluable in providing names, locations, and dates. The first city directory was published in 1859 and directories are then available from 1867 through 1920. A Minnesota Business directory published in 1865 includes Minneapolis, but is of limited scope. Morrison's The Industries of Minneapolis (1885) contains profiles and illustrations of many Minneapolis businesses along the riverfront. John Steven's Personal Recollections (1890) provided a personalized insight into the early development of Minneapolis.

With regard to doing archaeology in an urban context, few books were available at the beginning of the project, an exception being Dickens (1982). The Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of the Twin Cities (Westbrook 1983) has very little to do with archaeology, as does much "industrial archaeology" in general, but it contains several helpful overviews of selected industries and supplements SAFR as a standing structure inventory.

Studies of the natural environment principally utilized were various articles in Sims and Morey (1972), especially those by H.E. Wright, Jr. which discuss the glacial and post-glacial geological history. Post-glacial vegetational reconstruction is principally based on Wright et al. (1963). The environment at the time of white settlement is largely based on the early city histories cited above.

    Periodicals and Newspapers

One of the most important sources for the literature search was the Northwestern Miller, a flour milling trade journal published from 1873 until 1973 and based in Minneapolis for all but its first few years. This journal not only contains weekly reports on construction activities in and around the district, but occasional historical overviews of the mill district and detailed articles on many sites. Another trade journal with many interesting facts is the Mississippi Valley Lumberman which began in 1876 and also was published in Minneapolis.

Newspaper accounts were difficult to locate as there was not enough time to do a comprehensive survey of early newspapers, but several helpful articles were found by going through clipping files at the Minneapolis Public Library and the Hennepin County Historical Society. In addition, the Minneapolis Journal has been indexed from 1891 through 1928, although the index categories were not ideal for the purposes of this study.


Of all the sources, maps were the most useful in determining the archaeological potentials of the riverfront. Insurance maps were particularly useful as they provide details as to location, size, internal structure, and building materials. The Sanborn Insurance Company published master atlases for central Minneapolis in 1885 and 1912. The Rascher Insurance Company published a base atlas in 1892. These atlases could be updated yearly by cut and paste sheets.

The Minnesota Historical Society has the Sanborn base maps covering the central riverfront for 1885 and 1912 with updated versions for the 1885 atlases through 1890 and updated versions of the 1912 atlases for 1923 for the northwest end, through 1948-51 for the southwest end, and through 1941 for the east side of the riverfront. The MHS also has the Rascher 1892 base maps from the Gateway Area south and updated versions of Rascher through 1905-06. The Minneapolis Public Library has a version of the 1912 Sanborn Atlases updated through 1927-28. The Hennepin County Historical Society has a version of the 1912 Sanborn Atlases updated through 1938. The MHS also has the 1894 Yerkes Map of Lumber Districts of Minneapolis which includes the Bassett's Creek and Boom Island areas.

City atlases are available for Minneapolis for 1885 (Hopkins), 1887 (Davidson), 1892 (Foote), 1898 (Foote), 1903 (Minneapolis Real Estate Board), 1914 (Minneapolis Real Estate Board), and 1940 (Works Projects Administration). The earliest detailed map of central Minneapolis is the original government land survey map dated 1853. The 1856 Chapman and Curtis map is basically a plat map with few cultural details except for interbank features (some proposed and never built) such as log booms, bridges, and dams. An extremely valuable source is the Talcott map from 1857 which shows buildings on the west side from Bassett's Creek to 11th Avenue South. The Cook map of 1872 also shows building locations and, unlike Talcott, includes the entire central riverfront with a legend identifying principal buildings.

For the West Side Mill District, the Fuller map of 1873 is an invaluable source for building locations, sizes, and construction materials. A variety of other maps were examined, particularly maps made by the Army Corps of Engineers and companies operating facilities at St. Anthony Falls.

    Photographs and Drawings

Photographic collections at the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Public Library were carefully examined. Topic folders reviewed at the Minnesota Historical Society included Minneapolis Public Buildings, Minneapolis Street Scenes, Sawmilling, and Flour Milling. The Bromley Collection at the Minneapolis Public Library contains many helpful views.

Over 150 8x10 black and white photographs were ordered for the West River Parkway literature search from the Collections Department of the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minneapolis Public Library. These are on file at the Fort Snelling History Center. Reduced copies of some of these photographs appear at the end of this volume.

Color slides were taken of hundreds of historic photographs and maps. An extensive slide record taken by the author has documented the modern landscape changes along the riverfront as well as the archaeological testing since 1983. These slides are also on file at Fort Snelling.

Aerial photographs for the years 1937, 1940, 1945, 1958, 1964, 1970, and 1980 were examined at Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota. Panoramic drawings of central Minneapolis examined at the MHS and MPL also contain much useful data. These include Ruger (1867, 1879), Andreas (1874), Stoner (1879), Herancourt (1885), and Smith (1891).

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

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