Sources - Papers
Vol. 49, No. 1-2 1990
ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE
PART 2: ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND INTERPRETIVE POTENTIALS
Scott F. Anfinson
© 1989 Minnesota Archaeological Society
© 1989 Minnesota Archaeological Society
Table of Contents
Over the last seven years, about a quarter of a million dollars has been spent on archaeology on the central Minneapolis riverfront. The great majority of this money has come from the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) to reduce the adverse affects of the West River Parkway construction. While the archaeological work was initiated to save significant sites from destruction, it soon demonstrated the breadth and quality of archaeological resources in need of preservation and even available for interpretation. The most important accomplishment of the riverfront archaeology has been that it has promoted a widespread awareness among city officials that archaeological resources are present and that they are important.
Minneapolis riverfront archaeology in many ways is not a model urban archaeology project. It was a learning experience not only for city officials, but for the archaeologists involved. The archaeologists who have worked on the riverfront were by and large inexperienced in urban archaeology. Ft. Snelling has been the principal training ground for historic archaeologists in Minnesota. The Ft. Snelling work taught skills in dealing with masonry foundations and with a domestic artifact assemblage not unlike that found in the residential debris deposits of the riverfront.
But the excavation methods that had to be employed on the riverfront were far from traditional; a backhoe was the most important tool. These methods required some experimentation in order to be perfected. The variety of activities that had left archaeological remains was also daunting at times with a wide range of industrial processes, deep fill layers, complex stratigraphies, and concentrated artifact layers.
Despite the unorthodox excavations methods and material complexity of the riverfront archaeology, the major shortcomings of the project were not with respect to how the field work was carried out. The major failings are shared with many other cultural resource management (CRM) projects. This is the failure to seriously consider research questions beyond answering what is located where, to go beyond description in the analysis phase, and to fully communicate the results to the public in an accessible manner.
These failings are not necessarily the failings of the archaeologists that worked on the riverfront archaeology project. They are the failings of a CRM system that is more interested in fulfilling agency requirements rather than fulfilling the intent of CRM regulations. If archaeology is to proceed with little guidance as to what important questions about our past need to be answered, what it finds will be of limited importance. If archaeological information is to be gathered and not analyzed it is of limited use. If it is to be gathered and not shared, it is useless.
If the public is going to be expected to pay for archaeological projects, they must be shown the benefit of such projects. If archaeologists are going to do such projects, they must be prepared to pursue research questions beyond illustrating that artifacts and features simply exist.
The purpose of this publication is to illustrate the many successes of the Minneapolis riverfront archaeology projects and to try to correct some of the deficiencies. The summaries that follow are by in large descriptions of the archaeological methods that were employed and the sites and artifacts that were encountered. The site locations are shown in Figure 25. The reader is referred to original reports to obtain a more comprehensive summary of the findings. These reports are on file at the Minnesota Historical Society.
The following descriptions are presented in The Minnesota Archaeologist to make a wider public aware of the richness of Minneapolis riverfront archaeological resources. They may also make archaeologists aware of the potentials for research in an urban environment and our responsibilities beyond the law.
The West River Parkway extension along the central Minneapolis riverfront runs along the Mississippi River from the foot of 23rd Avenue S. in south Minneapolis to Plymouth Ave. in north Minneapolis (see Figure 1). The northern two-thirds of the project is within the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. The purpose of the 1983 archaeological survey was to assess the archaeological potentials along the route in order to minimize the adverse affects of construction and provide interpretive opportunities along the route.
The initial literature search on the West River Parkway (Anfinson 1984) included areas located outside of the current parkway limits because: 1) the original project submitted for review was a corridor approach containing numerous alternatives extending as far west as Washington Avenue, 2) in order to properly evaluate the archaeological potentials, the western riverfront as a whole had to be taken into account, and 3) data encountered during the literature search could prove useful in reviewing other developments promoted by the West River Parkway.
Based on the literature search, the route was divided into five archaeological areas with each area having distinct types of sites and interpretive potentials. The eastern boundary of the research area was the existing riverbank. The western boundaries of the research area extended to 1st St. N. in the northern portion of the Bassett's Creek Area, to River St. in the southern Bassett's Creek Area, to High Street in the Gateway Area, to 2nd St. in the Mill District Area, to Bluff St. in the Gasworks Bluff Area, and included the lower river terrace in the Brewery Flats Area.
Archaeological testing within the general research area was limited to a smaller zone since the primary route alternative had been chosen by the beginning of the field work. Some testing was done outside of the proposed parkway limits, but only in areas that were immediately adjacent to parkway sections where a single landowner was involved. This testing was done to better assess site limits and significance.
The 1983 archaeological reconnaissance survey on the proposed West River Parkway extension began in mid-August and lasted until November. The Minnesota Historical Society's (MHS) crew was led by Jeff Tordoff who directed three field assistants and a backhoe operator. Robert Clouse was the principal investigator and Scott Anfinson (the then Municipal-County Highway Archaeologist) completed the literature search and provided technical assistance and coordination. The final report (Tordoff 1984) on the methods, findings, and recommendations of the survey was submitted to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) in March of 1984.
The project area was divided into three datum grids: 1) the North Grid running from Plymouth Avenue to the foot of 5th Avenue South incorporating the Bassett's Creek and Gateway areas, 2) the Minnegasco Grid running from the foot of 10th Avenue South to the I-35W bridge incorporating the Gasworks Bluff area, and 3) the Flats Grid from the I-35W bridge to the foot of 23rd Avenue South incorporating the Brewery Flats area. These grids were superimposed on 1"=50' Ortho photo maps upon which had also been drawn the locations of former buildings as indicated by the literature search. A grid was not established in the Mill District due to its inaccessibility for testing at the time of the 1983 testing. Grid units were 20 feet square.
A multi-stage testing scheme was employed to locate sites. First of all, excavation squares were chosen that coincided with known building locations in an attempt to document the survival of subsurface features for each site indicated by the literature search. Secondly, random squares were chosen within each grid in an attempt to locate unrecorded sites, especially prehistoric sites.
The grid baselines were staked out and datum points in each grid were tied to official benchmarks and private property lines. One hundred test trenches of varying sizes were excavated using a backhoe. Some units were dug up to a depth of 16 feet below the current surface which was the effective limit of the backhoe The smallest units were at least 2 feet wide (the width of the backhoe bucket) and 10 feet long. Many expanded units were wedge-shaped resulting from the fixed pivot of the backhoe. The average size wedge-shaped unit had 12 foot sides with a 3 foot inner end and an 8 foot outer end. Long trenches were also produced by moving the backhoe along straight lines.
Shovels and trowels were utilized when features were encountered. When original soil horizons were located, the excavated earth was screened through one-quarter inch mesh. Such horizons were unfortunately rare, having been removed or existing below the reach of the backhoe.
Due to the presence of current buildings, parking lots, utility lines, roadways, and gravel piles, some designated excavation units, notably most of the random units, could not be excavated. This was especially true in the Gasworks Bluff area and in the Mill District. Landowner permission to excavate was never obtained in the northern part of the Brewery Flats parcel between the I-35W bridge and the Northern Pacific Railroad bridge. Excavation in the former coal storage area of northern Brewery Flats was also restricted by the presence of a thick concrete pad located just below the surface.
This section is largely based on Tordoff (1984). It begins by discussing sites at the northern end of the West River Parkway project and moves south (downriver).
Bassett's Creek Landfill - This site includes the parkway land north of Bassett's Creek and south of Plymouth Avenue (Figure 26). The area is entirely fill, including cultural refuse and dredge spoil. The fill extended below the reach of the backhoe in all 13 units. Prior to 1890 the area was the mouth of Bassett's Creek and was largely underwater except for three small, low islands. This site was not discussed by the initial literature search.
The artifacts from the fill dated from about 1890 through the early part of the twentieth century. Stratigraphy suggests that the fill was regularly graded leaving discrete layers relating to a particular business or activity. For instance, one horizon had hospital supplies, another had printing supplies, and another broken lightbulbs. The site is an archaeological preserve of lifeways and small business activity in turn of the century Minneapolis. Much of the site remains relatively intact beneath the current park and roadway.
C,SP,M,& O RR Yards - The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railroad built extensive yards south of Bassett's Creek in the 1880s. The freight depot building still survives and was recently converted into townhouses. The principal archaeological feature of the complex is a roundhouse that was built in 1891 and torn down about 1920 (Anfinson 1989:37-39). It is near the mouth of Bassett's Creek at the foot of 7th Ave. N. Extensive test excavations at the roundhouse site in 1983 documented that the entire foundations of the roundhouse and its turntable remained intact immediately below the modern surface (Figure 27).
Both the roundhouse and the turntable foundations were built of mortared limestone. The service bays which extended from the turntable edge into the roundhouse had convex brick floors and, based on the bottom of the tie insets, afforded a crawlspace that was 2.6' wide by 4' wide (Figure 28). The length of the bays was 41.25' based on the excavation of one entire bay. An adjacent bay was partially excavated.
The excavation of the turntable foundation was limited to the removal of the topmost fill (3" - 6") to reveal about half of the outer wall. The diameter of the turntable was 74' and the wall was 2' thick.
About 200' south of the turntable center, Excavation Trench 44 encountered a mortared limestone wall that was bisected at its northern end by a later concrete footing. Fill to the riverward side of the wall was cinders. The origin of the wall was not determined. Test Units 78 and 99 located about 200' east of the roundhouse and 120' west of the river encountered dredge spoil and modern construction rubble.
North Star Sawmill - Located at the foot of 4th Avenue N. (Figure 29), the site that is here referred to as the North Star Sawmill has a complex construction and ownership history as described in the Site Inventory section of Part 1 of this study (Anfinson 1989:39). The Moffit Sawmill was first built on the site in 1868 and the last sawmill, belonging to the Shevlin-Carpenter Company, was torn down in 1907. The North Star Sawmill occupied the site from 1878 to 1886.
Only the footing of a gang saw could be located by extensive archaeological testing in the area (Plate 1). Since the base of the footing was below the reach of the backhoe, it is likely that additional remains of the North Star Sawmill exist deeply buried beneath modern fill. A portion of a circular saw blade was found in the vicinity fill.
The footing was probably the support for a two-story gang saw. The mortared limestone footing is 12' square on top and flares outward towards the base. Large wooden beams containing anchor bolts were still in place on the footing. An advertisement for the nearby North Star Ironworks which appeared in the Mississippi Valley Lumberman (May 27, 1884) shows a gang saw mounted on a similar footing (Figure 30).
North Star Planing Mill - This mill was built in 1877 by H.T. Welles and eventually became part of the adjacent Shevlin-Carpenter operation. It was torn down in 1907 (Anfinson 1989:41). Just below the surface, a mortared limestone foundation was uncovered in a trench excavated at the site of the North Star Planing Mill. The upper-most portion of the south wall was followed to just beyond two building corners indicating an E-W building length of 50'. A six-foot square footing was uncovered in the middle of the exterior of the wall. The height of the wall was not determined.
West Side Power Company - In 1884 the Minnesota Brush Electric Company built the city's first steam-powered electric generating plant near the foot of 3rd Avenue North. The generators were removed in 1895 and building was used for lumber storage by Shevlin-Carpenter until it was torn down in 1907 (Anfinson 1989:41).
Immediately north of the Burlington Northern railroad tracks, Test Unit 5 encountered an unfilled basement with its intact roof four feet from the surface (Figure 29). Further excavations and an examination of the basement interior documented a mortared limestone structure 135' x 90'. The basement had an interior dimension of 48' x 13' with a height of 9.6'. The north wall had four doorways leading to a filled basement. The ceiling was constructed of fourteen brick vaults separated by steel I-beams. Three limestone pedestals were on the floor, two of which had four bolts in the top. These were probably bases for turbines or generators.
Excavation Unit 47 outside of the building limits contained large amounts of refuse from Great Northern passenger service operations dating from 1925 - 1960. A distinctive china was identified as Great Northern's after a search through Great Northern publicity photos in the MHS manuscripts collection.
Pacific Sawmill - This site is important because the Pacific Mill was the first large steam sawmill built north of St. Anthony Falls. The sawmill was built in 1866 and torn down in 1887 (Anfinson 1989:42). A mortared limestone footing was encountered in Test Trench 50 and the footing was followed to its corners; the wall length was 50' (Figure 31). This was apparently the north wall of the sawmill. A perpendicular trench uncovered concrete footings that were bases for I-beams that had supported the Great Northern Depot train shed.
North Gateway Refuse Deposit - Several 1983 test units north of Hennepin Avenue yielded deeply buried refuse apparently dating to the 1870s (Figure 32). The deposit was present at a depth of 9.5' to 12'. In Unit 53, the cultural debris was directly on top of the naturally occurring sandstone. The artifacts appeared to be associated with commercial developments in the Gateway Area, especially leather working (see Anfinson 1989:45). The artifacts included a few pottery fragments (largely white-ware and crockery), glass fragments, animal bone, and many cut leather scraps. No 1860s ceramics were found in these northern Gateway units.
Gateway Residential Area - South of Hennepin Avenue, a more extensive refuse deposit was encountered that contained more artifacts and was at least a decade older than the deposit north of Hennepin Avenue. Most of the deposit is apparently associated with a residential area that existed south of the John Stevens house during the 1860s and 1870s (Anfinson 1989:50). Five trenches were excavated perpendicular to the river. In Unit 60, an 85' trench located 650' south of Hennepin Avenue, the residential deposit began about 100' east of the retaining wall by the Post Office (Figure 32). The deposit continued out of the west end of the trench. As illustrated in Figure 33, the deposit got deeper moving east to west suggesting that it followed the natural contour of the 1860s riverbank. The intact segment of the deposit varied in thickness from 1' to 4' and began from 3' to 15' from the surface. Artifacts included ceramics, glass, and miscellaneous objects.
Hennepin Avenue Bridges - Photographic research had clearly indicated that substantial foundations were used for the 1876 (2nd) suspension bridge both beneath the stone towers and the anchor saddles. Information about the foundations of the 1854 (1st) suspension bridge was more limited, although the fact that the towers and the anchor saddle housing were built of wood suggested foundational remains might be more limited.
Because the 1890 steel arch bridge had been built in approximately the same location as the two earlier suspension bridges, archaeological excavations had to be conducted beneath the western approach section of the Hennepin Avenue bridge (Figure 32). A small portion of the the 1876 tower foundation was located by the 1983 testing. It was constructed of mortared limestone block resting on bedrock. The foundations began at about 4' below the surface with the sandstone bedrock encountered at 5'. No attempt was made to locate the anchors, as they were out of the West River Parkway limits.
Union Depot - In 1885, the Union Railroad Depot was built on the riverfront south of Hennepin Avenue. It was torn down in 1914 following the completion of the Great Northern Depot north of Hennepin Avenue (Anfinson 1989:48). Excavation Trench 54 exposed a long section of the Union Depot foundations (Figure 32). The mortared limestone wall began beneath the south edge of the Hennepin Avenue approach bridge and extended south of the bridge for at least 170'. The top of the wall was about 2.5' below the surface. A perpendicular trench located a parallel wall 28' to east (Figure 34. A square limestone pedestal was present at the base of the perpendicular trench incorporated into but at an angle to the exposed depot wall.
As mentioned earlier, a grid system was not laid out in the Mill District due to the inaccessibility of most of the area for archaeological testing. Four small test units were excavated along former railroad right of way at the extreme north end of the Mill District (Figure 35). The units all had sand and gravel fill. No artifacts or features were encountered.
Surface reconnaissance in the Mill District located the ruins of a number of buildings and other important archaeological features. The ruins of the Occidental and Columbia flour mills were noted north of Fuji-Ya restaurant. The restaurant was built into the ruins of the Columbia Mill and Bassett Sawmill. The top of the western foundations of the city waterworks was visible along the parking lot south of Fiji-Ya. The top of the canal wall was visible south of the parking lot. East of the canal were the foundations of four early flour mills; the St. Anthony, Union, Holly, and Cataract. Just south of Portland Avenue the ruins of the Clapp Woolen Mill/Empire Mill/Pillsbury B Elevator could be seen partially buried by the Shiely gravel piles.
Gasworks Dump - Limited testing was done in the area of the old Minneapolis Gas Works south of the Mill District due to the presence of sub-surface pipelines and possible toxic wastes. The three small test units (Figure 36) yielded few artifacts, although a natural "prairie soil" was discovered five feet below the surface in one of the units. A surface collection along the bluff edge south of the units located 1885-1895 artifacts eroding out of the top of the bluff face.
Bohemian Flats - Bohemian Flats was a residential area that existed on the river flats north of Washington Avenue from the 1860s through the early 1930s (Anfinson 1989:79-82). Four small test units were opened in 1983 in the Bohemian Flats area (Figures 37 and 38). Of the two units closest to the Washington Avenue bridge, the one nearest the river encountered rubble fill to a depth of about 7 feet and then sand and gravel, while the other unit was largely sand to a depth of 5.5 feet and then encountered sandstone.
The northernmost unit had rubble fill to a depth of 6 feet followed by gravel. An intermediary unit encountered an almost impenetrable cement pad .5 feet below the surface. After several hours of pounding with the backhoe bucket, the cement was broached, but the limited excavations recovered no artifacts.
Heinrich Brewery - Testing in the vicinity of this 1866 - ca.1900 brewery complex (cf. Anfinson 1989: 85) located a variety of structural remains including mortared limestone walls, brick floors, and wooden floors (Figure 39). Bricked-up entrances to a series of storage caves were also found at the base of the bluff; one of the caves was explored but not mapped. Building foundations were encountered as shallow as 2' below the surface.
Artifacts recovered by the 1983 excavations along the West River Parkway were catalogued into the MHS collections and are conserved at the Ft. Snelling History Center. Due to budgetary and time restrictions, little analysis was performed. A brief review of the artifacts found is presented below. More complete descriptions can be found in Tordoff (1984).
Bassett's Creek Landfill - Most of the artifacts from this deposit date from about 1890 to about 1920. The ceramics include a variety of types with Staffordshire products no longer dominating the sample as they would in most pre-1890 deposits. Bottles from the deposit all appear machine-made, many with screw cap tops.
North Gateway Refuse Deposit - No marked artifacts were recovered from the excavation units north of the Hennepin Avenue bridge. The 36 plain whiteware sherds would indicate a date of deposition around 1870.
Gateway Residential District - The artifacts from the southern part of the Gateway District included 241 plain whiteware sherds, along with 23 decorated sherds. Makers marks include Wedgewood and Co., John Alcock, and Meakin Brothers. Four bottles had makers marks. Miscellaneous artifacts from this deposit include 31 shoes or shoe parts, kaolin smoking pipe fragments, a wooden keg lid, and even a piece of coconut shell. The ceramics and bottles date the deposit to the 1860s and 1870s.
Gasworks Dump - The surface collection in the Gasworks area indicated a deposition date between the mid-1880s and the early 1890s. Transfer print ceramics dominate the assemblage. A number of bottles were also found along with part of a two-gallon Red Wing pottery crock.
The remains of eight structures and four nineteenth century refuse dumps were located by the 1983 archaeological testing. The structures included three sawmills, a railroad roundhouse, the tower base of the second Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge, a train depot, and a brewery. In addition, surface remains of sites were noted in the Mill District including seven flour mills, a sawmill, the old and new waterworks, and the 1st St. canal.
The 1983 testing documented that the Minneapolis riverfront was a rich archaeological resource. Almost every potential site documented in the literature search had surviving features. Extensive filling along the riverfront, mainly due to railroad expansion, had sealed many features beneath a protective cap.
A number of the most important early historic sites in Minneapolis were clearly threatened by the West River Parkway Project. The Omaha Railroad Roundhouse, the West Side Power Company, the Second Suspension Bridge footings, the Union Depot foundations, and the Heinrich Brewery remains were all in or near the path of the new roadway. Although very limited testing was done in the Mill District, map research and surface reconnaissance indicated that the link between the river edge section of the road and the existing street system was to go through the 1st Street Canal gates and part of the foundations of an early city waterworks.
Following the completion of the archaeological testing, it was recommended that further excavation should be carried out prior to construction to properly assess some of the untested areas and better evaluate the sites located in 1983.
Following the 1983 West River Parkway survey, the next archaeological work done on the Minneapolis riverfront was in 1985 in response to the proposed replacement of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. Once again, the use of federal funds on a local highway project required that the project be reviewed by the Municipal-County Highway Archaeological Program to determine the potential affects to archaeological sites.
In the vicinity of the west side of the Hennepin Avenue bridge, the 1983 West River Parkway project documented remains from the Great Northern and Union Railroad depots, mid-nineteenth commercial and residential areas, and the tower footings of the 1876 suspension bridge. Additional archaeological testing was required to better define the significance of and extent of these remains as well as determining if any other sites would be affected.
Archaeological testing in 1985 was limited to the west side of the river because the eastern end of the bridge project on Nicollet Island was deeply buried beneath the existing approach road and therefore inaccessible at the time of the 1985 testing. Hennepin County was advised of the potential of archaeological sites on the east side of the bridge and it was agreed to investigate the eastern potentials during the actual construction.
The Hennepin Avenue bridge project actually involved the replacement of two bridges. A two-span steel arch bridge (State Number 90589) crossed the Mississippi River and a steel-beam span approach bridge (State Number 5860) crossed the former railroad yards along the west side riverfront. The 1888-90 steel arch bridge was in itself a significant cultural resource. Although the design was not as visually striking as the earlier suspension bridges, it was a unique historic structure in Minnesota. An engineering study determined that the steel arch bridge could be rehabilitated and even significantly widened for a considerably lower cost than that of a new bridge, especially a new suspension bridge. The idea of a suspension bridge once again crossing the river at Hennepin Avenue ultimately surpassed historic preservation and economic concerns.
Excavations were conducted between October 15 and November 15, 1985. Although portions of the depots and the residential area were in the project corridor, the principal archaeological sites to be impacted by the bridge construction were the First and Second suspension bridges. The location of the tower supports for the Second Suspension Bridge had been found by the West River Parkway in 1983 so the 1985 excavations initially targeted the remains of the first bridge.
The 1983 testing demonstrated that no original soils existed below Bridge 5860, the elevated approach to the Hennepin Avenue bridge. Thus several feet of overburden were first removed in 1985 using a backhoe. Since the excavations were beneath an existing bridge, the support beams and their mushroom-shaped concrete bases had to be carefully avoided. Once a feature was encountered, shovels, trowels, and brooms were used to further expose them. The features were tied into the 1983 West River Parkway survey North Grid and the highway right-of-way.
Four construction episodes were documented by the 1985 excavations. The episodes are explained in more detail in Tordoff and Clouse (1985) and the histories of the features encountered are outlined in the Site Inventory section in Part 1 of this study (Anfinson 1989:119).
First Suspension Bridge - The 1985 excavations quickly located the tower bases from the 1854 suspension bridge (Figure 40). The tower bases were individual pads, 21' square and separated by a 18' gap (Plate 2). They are built of mortared limestone with quoined corners and rest on bedrock. The tops of the footings are level with each other and vary in depth to bedrock from two to seven feet. Great Northern Depot construction rests on both bases, and two Bridge 5860 supports rested on the upstream base.
Once the tower bases were located, the locations of the anchors were extrapolated. Paired slots cut through the limestone were found 125' southwest of the tower bases. In order to place the anchors below the limestone, a tunnel had been carved through the soft sandstone beneath the limestone. The tunnel was found essentially intact. Entrance to the tunnel was gained through a nearby utility access. The tunnel (approximately four feet high by three feet wide) led to widened chambers below the anchor slots. These chambers once housed the iron anchors to which the bridge cables were attached.
Second Suspension Bridge - The tower bases from the 1876 stone towered suspension bridge had been uncovered in 1983. The 1985 excavations re-exposed all but the northeastern corner which was near a Bridge 5860 support pedestal (Figure 40). Unlike the 1854 tower bases, the 1876 bases are linked by a narrow intermediate foundation so the entire structure resembles a square dumbbell (Plate 3). The two base squares are 18.5' on a side while the linking foundation is 16.5' long and 7' wide.
Resting on the footings are features from both depots; sandstone blocks from the Union Depot and a cement wall from the Great Northern Depot. The bridge footings rest on bedrock and are about a foot high.
As in the manner of the 1854 bridge excavation, the 1876 anchor locations were interpolated from descriptions and plans of the bridge. The anchor slots were found 150' west of the tower bases with portions of the iron link bars still in place. The 1876 access tunnel was also located, but the tunnel was walled shut just short of the anchor locations. The 1876 access tunnel was lined with mortared limestone and tapered from a width of 5' to a width of 2.7'. It intersects the modern utility tunnel at a right angle.
Union Depot - As documented by the 1983 West River Parkway excavations, extensive remains of the 1885 Union Depot were present near the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. The western end of the freight building rests upon the bases of the First Suspension Bridge (Figure 40 and Plate 2). These walls are mortared limestone and are a continuation of the walls found in 1983 south of Hennepin Avenue. These walls date to the original 1885 construction, while the sandstone pedestals located to the north in 1985 are somewhat later as they rest on portions of the Second Suspension Bridge tower bases which were torn down in 1890.
The west wall of the freight building had a series of stone pedestals built into it, one of which had a sandstone cap. Iron bolts protruded from the pedestals. These pedestals are in line with the sandstone blocks found on the Second Suspension bridge foundations. They were no doubt the bases for the pillars which supported the train shed roof.
Great Northern Depot - Only the east and west walls of this 1914 depot reached ground level, while the remainder of the building was supported by concrete columns. A 300' by 400' train shed extended north from Hennepin Avenue. Two types of poured concrete remains were found by the 1985 excavations evidencing this construction. Various sized pedestal supports reflect different load bearing columns. Long concrete walls were also found with reinforcing rods protruding from the top. They rest on soil and do not appear to have borne much weight. They are probably foundations for walkways which were spaced between the railroad tracks beneath the train shed.
Little attempt was made to obtain artifacts during the Hennepin Avenue bridge excavations. The principal objective of the testing was to locate architectural features and the associated fill had yielded few artifacts during the earlier West River Parkway testing.
No remains from the mid-nineteenth century residential area were found during the 1985 Hennepin Avenue Bridge excavations. This is no doubt due to the fact that from the time of earliest settlement, the area beneath the existing bridge has been a roadway or covered with railroad tracks.
Extensive remains were found of both suspension bridges and both depots. The bridge remains were deemed to be highly significant and were entirely within the project area. The depot remains were not as significant and were only partially within the project area.
It was recommended that the remains of the suspension bridges be preserved in place, as well as a portion of the sandstone abutment of the steel arch bridge. Additional excavations on the depot remains were recommended in order to mitigate any adverse construction impacts. A final recommendation was that all construction excavation be monitored by a qualified archaeologist, especially the approach fill removal on the east side.
The 1983 West River Parkway survey had determined that one of the most archaeologically important areas to be impacted by the proposed roadway was where the intersection was to be made between existing 1st St. S. and the new route along the river in the northern part of the Mill District. In 1986 this area was occupied by the Fuji-Ya restaurant's south parking lot. No testing had been done in this area in 1983 due to the presence of the actively used parking lot.
The West River Parkway literature search (Anfinson 1984) suggested that several important buildings once stood at the Fuji-Ya parking lot location. In 1866 J.B. Bassett built a stone-walled sawmill on the west side of the 1st Street Canal near the gatehouse. In 1870 he built a new frame sawmill north of the stone building and sold the stone building to the city to serve as the municipal water works. The city expanded the waterworks to the north in 1883. In 1882, Bassett built the large Columbia Flour Mill north of his frame sawmill, sharing waterpower and eventually steam power with the adjacent sawmill.
The wooden-walled Bassett Sawmill burned in 1897. The City Waterworks buildings were abandoned in 1904 and torn down in the early 1930s. The Columbia Mill was converted into an elevator in the 1930s and the interior collapsed in 1941. The mill was then torn down.
In 1968 Fuji-Ya restaurant was built into the brick boiler house that originally stood in the south end of the Columbia Mill. In 1974 Fuji-Ya expanded south into the foundations of the 1870 Bassetts Sawmill.
In order to better assess the potential impacts of the roadway connection on the Bassett Sawmill and City Waterworks sites, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) hired the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) in January of 1986 to conduct test excavations. The purpose of the excavations was not to expose large portions of any foundations, but to confirm their locations, determine their depth and orientation, and assess their condition. Depth below surface was perhaps the most important consideration since the proposed roadway needed to ascend the slope from the lower river terrace to 1st Street. It was estimated that grade preparation would extend as much as 10' below the parking lot surface.
In addition to the Fuji-Ya parking lot testing, the MHS was also asked to test the site of the Palisade Mill, the southern-most mill on the canal which had been built in 1872 and had burned in 1940. The MPRB was negotiating with the J.L. Shiely Company for the purchase of the mill ruin sites south and east of 1st St. S. The Shiely Company had informed the Park Board that they were considering building a restaurant into the Palisade Mill ruins, although in retrospect it now appears that Shiely may have been more interested in driving up the price they were to be paid for the land based on enhanced development potential if significant and well-preserved ruins could be found.
Excavations on these two areas were conducted during the week of January 20 - 24, 1986. Once again, Jeff Torfdoff was the field director and Robert Clouse was the principal investigator. Two archaeological assistants and a Minneapolis Public Works backhoe operator helped with the field operations.
Horizontal measurements for the Fuji-Ya excavation were tied into existing building corners, while the vertical datum was the northernmost extension of the Upper Lock and Dam sidewalk. The Palisade Mill measurements were tied into two adjacent fire hydrants.
At both sites the ground was frozen to a depth of 40 inches so a pneumatic hammer mounted on the backhoe was used to break through the surface deposits. The backhoe digging-unit was then used to remove overburden until features were encountered. Shovels, trowels, picks, and brooms were then used in conjunction with the backhoe to better expose features.
The excavation summaries are based on Tordoff (1986).
Two 3' x 12' excavations were opened in the Fuji-Ya parking lot, Unit 1 near the south-central edge of the lot and the Unit 2 near the northeastern edge (Figure 41). After removing the surface asphalt and the frozen ground, excavations in Unit 1 encountered the north wall of the Water Works at 3.5' below the surface of the parking lot (Figure 42). It was a lime-mortared brick wall with some evidence of later Portland cement work at the west edge of the excavation.
Excavations in Unit 2 encountered the eastern corner of a wheelhouse 2.8' below the surface of the parking lot (Figure 42). This too was a lime-mortared, yellow brick feature. Excavations continued to a depth of 10.5' (the limit of the backhoe) east of the wheelhouse, but no additional features were encountered.
One irregularly shaped unit was opened at the Palisade Mill site (Figure 43). The compactness of the gravel overburden made excavation difficult even for the backhoe. A portion of a mortared limestone wall was encountered 3.6 feet below the surface. The wall was 2.6 feet thick and appeared to be in relatively good condition. It was determined to be a portion of the northwest wall of the Palisade Mill.
The wall could not be followed to a corner due to stipulations imposed by the Shiely Company. Bottles found in the fill immediately above the wall had basal dates of 1941 and 1942, evidencing demolition of the mill superstructure following the 1940 fire.
Little attempt was made to recover artifacts during this testing as the main objective was to document architectural features. The few bottles found adjacent to the Palisade Mill did confirm the literature search regarding the destruction of the building's superstructure in the early 1940s.
The January 1986 excavations at the Fuji-Ya parking lot and Palisade Mill sites once again demonstrated the rich archaeological potentials of the Minneapolis riverfront. Well-preserved foundations were present at both sites approximately three feet below the modern surface. This was the first formal archaeological testing conducted in the Mill District.
Recommendations were made to the MPRB that the ruins below the Fuji-Ya parking lot should be avoided by construction if possible and if not, further archaeological excavations would be necessary to mitigate adverse affects. The suitability of the Palisade Mill foundations as a basement for a restaurant was not fully assessed, but the confirmation of their presence suggested that care should be taken with any development in the area.
The 1983, 1985, and early 1986 archaeological testing along the Minneapolis riverfront documented that many of the sites listed as "potential" by the West River Parkway literature search (Anfinson 1984) were indeed real. Extensive archaeological remains had been uncovered along the entire route of the proposed parkway. Based on earlier findings and recommendations, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) contracted with the Minnesota Historical Society to mitigate adverse affects to a number of sites along the northern half of the route through pre-construction archaeological excavation and archaeological monitoring during construction.
Archaeological excavation was initially targeted for seven sites where extensive structural remains or artifact deposits had been located by the 1983 survey: the C, SP, M, and O RR Roundhouse, the Pacific Sawmill, the Union Depot, the North Gateway Refuse Deposit, the Gateway Residential Area, the City Waterworks, and the First Street Canal Gates. Three additional areas were targeted for monitoring only: the Bassett's Creek North Landfill, the Bassett's Creek Tunnel, and the North Star Sawmill.
It was necessary to alter the research design during the 1986 field work. A change in design in the vicinity of Hennepin Avenue eliminated the need for the excavation of the Union Depot foundation. Informal monitoring during the construction phase located extensive remains of the West Side Power Company requiring additional archaeological work at that site.
Field work began on September 2 and lasting until November 7. Jeffrey Tordoff acted as field director and Robert Clouse as principal investigator. Five archaeological field assistants were hired as well as a backhoe operator from the C.S. McCrossan Construction Company (the general contractor for the West River Parkway construction). The excavation summary is based on the report written by Tordoff and Clouse in 1987.
Backhoe excavation was once again the principal method used to expose features and artifact concentrations. The effective reach of the backhoe was 15'. Structural remnants and artifact removal was accomplished with small, hand-held tools. The grid used for the 1983 testing was once again established, although the grid datums were obliterated by the subsequent construction. Horizontal and vertical controls for the excavations were also tied into adjacent buildings.
Structural remnants and soil profiles were drawn and photographed. Selected samples of the refuse deposits were screened through 1/2" mesh which was very difficult due to the consistency and wetness of most deposits.
C,SP,M,& O RR Roundhouse - Based on the construction plans, the northernmost portion of the roundhouse would be directly affected by the road construction so excavations were concentrated there. In 1891 the original roundhouse was built along 90 degrees of arc and several years later was expanded to incorporate 135 degrees of arc. The affected area appeared to be restricted to the addition.
Four service bays, about 70 degrees of arc of the exterior wall, a small portion of the turntable wall, and the turntable central pivot were exposed by the 1986 excavations (Figure 44 and Plate 4). The exterior wall was built of coursed, quarry-dressed limestone. It was 4' thick and extended below the 15' reach of the backhoe in the area parallel to Bassett's Creek. It apparently not only supported the roundhouse shed structure, but served as a retaining wall to prevent the structure from sliding into Bassett's Creek.
The service bays were 46' long and 5' wide. Each bay had a brick floor between limestone walls that was slightly sloped to drain at the proximal (interior) end. The walls were topped with concrete containing notches for railroad ties. The bays excavated in 1983 did not have concrete upper sections, which supported the contention that the 1986 bays were of later construction.
The spaces between the bays were floored with poured concrete underlain with sand. The concrete flooring did not extend to the exterior walls and this gap contained pipes suggesting that each bay had access to gas or water. Wall foundations extending beyond the roundhouse exterior along the southern portion appear to be the remnants of the gashouse. The roundhouse shed was 290' in diameter with the radius from the turntable to the outer wall 156'.
The turntable foundation consisted of a circular limestone footing 74' in diameter. The interior of the footing steps down 3' to a concrete shelf into which are set railroad ties. The center of the turntable was a 6'-square sandstone block with four iron pins protruding from the top.
Pacific Sawmill - Two walls of the Pacific Sawmill had been exposed by the 1983 excavations, but this represented only a small portion of the entire site. Excavations in 1986 focused on the portion of the site that was within the proposed roadway limits more riverward than the previous excavations.
The fill above the sawmill ruins averaged nine feet in depth. A stratigraphy pit excavated 40' west of the south end of the platform encountered a layer of pine bark 4.5' below the surface. This layer appears to represent the mid-nineteenth century riverbottom near the west bank of the river.
The northeast corner of the sawmill foundation wall located in 1983 was re-exposed in 1986. The east wall was then excavated for 80' to the south (Figure 45 and Plate 5). Based on the 1983 and the 1986 excavations, the building dimensions were approximately 135' by 50'. It is unclear whether or not the foundations represent the original configuration of the 1866 or the reconstructed 1880 structure.
The principal feature encountered by the 1986 excavations was an extensive log slide. The 1885 Sanborn Atlas shows such a slide extending from the southeast side of the mill. This configuration conforms with the results of the 1983 and 1986 excavations. A steep drop-off of the grade in this area as indicated by a layer of wood chips appears to trace the late nineteenth century river bank.
The platform was constructed of heavy planks laid directly on the surface (Plate 6). The preservation of the wood was excellent. The flooring is at the same level as a large limestone footing at the west end of the floor. A large wooden beam with two rectangular slots found nearby is probably an additional footing for the large piece of machinery supported by the stonework. The building corner here is ill-defined which is best explained by the fact that the building was open here to allow for the intake of logs. Wood pilings were found east of the platform.
A wood-covered chase containing a four-inch iron pipe was located near the north end of the platform running east-west. This was no doubt either for water intake or outflow. Three small limestone footings were also found directly associated with the platform. They may have served as building supports.
Testing in the Gateway Area in 1986 was concentrated in two areas of the ca. 1860 - ca. 1880 refuse deposits located in 1983: 600' north of Hennepin Avenue and 1500' south of Hennepin Avenue. Both locations were directly beneath or adjacent to the proposed roadway. Little screening had been done in these refuse deposits in 1983, so one of the objectives of the 1986 testing was to screen a larger sample of the excavated material.
North Gateway Refuse Deposit - The northern test unit was about 200 square feet in extent and was adjacent to 1983 Unit 51. The refuse deposit was 9 to 12 feet below the surface with a horizon thickness varying from 1 to 2 feet. Fewer artifacts were recovered from the 1986 screening than were recovered by the haphazard sampling in 1983. This would indicate that the refuse deposit is unevenly distributed north of Hennepin Avenue.
Gateway Residential District - At the southern end of the Gateway Area about 400 square feet of the refuse deposit was exposed in three excavation units. The deposit was 1 to 2.5 feet thick and was found at depths ranging from 6 to 9 feet. Screening yielded 2,939 artifacts as opposed to the 695 recovered in 1983. Artifacts included materials associated with kitchen activities, building construction, furniture, clothing, personal items, and recreation. A single aboriginal potsherd was recovered which was grit-tempered with a smooth surface.
Two mortared limestone pedestals were also encountered in the southern excavation (Plate 7). Each was about 9 feet square and tapered towards the top. They were connected by heavy wooden beams which also extended west from the pedestals (Figure 46).
The pedestals are thought to have supported a large, three-story livery stable which is shown on an 1880 map of the area and which appears in several late nineteenth century photographs. The excavation unit also encountered straw and manure (which were amazingly well preserved) supporting the contention that the pedestals were associated with a livery stable.
City Waterworks - Excavations on the City Waterworks in the Fuji-Ya parking lot in 1986 were somewhat limited by temporary braces that were being used to hold up the fire-damaged walls of the Crown Roller Mill and a chainlink fence which provided a safety buffer around the Crown Mill. The excavations were needed to determine the condition and extent of foundational remains located earlier in 1986 in order to assess the impacts of the proposed link between 1st Street and the new parkway along the river bank.
The City Waterworks took over the original Bassett Sawmill building in 1871. The sawmill had been built in 1866 as a two-story masonry structure. The city removed the upper story and in 1883 built a brick addition on the north side. The waterworks was abandoned in 1904 and the buildings were used for storage until the early 1930s when they were torn down.
The excavations followed the north wall of the waterworks for 66 feet from the chain link fence near 1st Street to east wall of the building (Figure 47). The east wall was then followed to the south for about 50 feet where a second east-west wall was encountered. The two major wall portions exposed both belonged to the 1883 waterworks addition.
The walls were built of mortared limestone with the north wall having a brick facing on the north side probably associated with second Bassett Sawmill built in 1870. The north wall had no openings, but four large rectangular openings pierced the east wall which fronted on the canal. The floor of the waterworks was below the reach of the backhoe and was not uncovered. A ledge in the northeast corner of the building suggested a small floored room once existed there, perhaps containing the water intake and turbine.
Canal Gate - Controlling the flow of water into the 1st Street Canal was a gate structure. Originally built in 1856, the gates were reconstructed in 1885. The 1885 gates were reported to be built of limestone, granite, and sandstone. Atop the gates was a brick gatehouse where the controls for opening and closing the gates were located. When water to the canal was shutoff in 1960 in conjunction with the construction of the Upper Lock and Dam, the canal was filled-in, the gatehouse torn down, and the gates covered.
The 1986 excavations revealed portions of three of the eight gate openings (Figure 48 and Plate 8). As with the waterworks, horizontal exposure was limited by modern surface features. Excavations went to a depth of 20 feet, but the bottom of the gate structure was not reached due to encountering the water table and the limitations of the backhoe.
The gateways were arched and built of granite. Four courses of sandstone laid immediately above the arches appeared to directly support the iron gate frames. Double limestone walls top the structure with a ballast chamber between filled with limestone rubble. The iron frames on the north side guided wooden gates up and down to control the water flow. The wooden gates were not in place.
At the northeast edge of the excavation, a riveted iron cylinder three-feet in diameter was encountered. The intended function of the vertically set tube was not immediately apparent, but it may have been used to monitor water levels in the mill pond.
Bassett's Creek Landfill - Two types of construction excavation were planned in this area: road grade preparation to a maximum depth of seven feet and utility trenching to a maximum depth of eight feet. Initial monitoring of the construction documented that no deposits earlier than ca. 1920 were being disturbed. A sample of 797 artifacts were recovered, mainly from backdirt piles. They dated between 1920 and 1950.
Bassett's Creek Tunnel - Although technically not an archaeological site, the vaulted masonry tunnel enclosing Bassett's Creek was considered to be an interesting engineering feature. Construction excavations exposed the top of the tunnel, but the stonework had previously been covered with concrete.
West Side Power - Excavations in 1983 did not find foundational remnants of this structure within the path of the proposed roadway. Construction excavations in 1986 encountered significant building remains, however. Exposure of the remains indicated the foundation remnant had stepped down towards the river beyond the reach of the backhoe in 1983.
The ruins encountered in 1986 consisted of three limestone walls representing the east, south and north walls of the building. The east wall remnant was completely exposed (Plate 9) and was 64.5 feet in length. The lower part of the wall was constructed of large limestone blocks, while the upper part was constructed of smaller limestone blocks. The south wall of the building appears to have been substantially removed and replaced with brick masonry.
The difference in basement levels from the open room encountered to the west in 1983 indicates that the building had two basement levels. A ledge on the interior of the walls uncovered in 1986 was probably used to support floor joists to match the basement level of the western room.
A brick-arched opening was found near the north end of the east wall. The use of Portland cement as opposed to lime mortar indicates the opening was cut at a later date than the original building construction. At the base of the opening was a ceramic pipe which may have provided drainage.
A 7.5 foot diameter riveted iron cylinder encased in brick was located three feet off the northwest corner of the building. The purpose of the structure was not immediately apparent. The fill near the east wall of the building included hundreds of fragments of carbon-arc rods many exhibiting tapered points. These may be associated with the dynamos of the power plant.
Following the completion of the archaeological recording, the east wall and portions of the north and south walls were destroyed to constructed a retaining wall for the roadway.
Gateway North Refuse Deposit - Monitoring north of the Hennepin Avenue bridge indicated that sewer construction removed 75 to 100 square feet of the deep refuse deposit. No artifacts were recovered from the backdirt piles.
The artifacts recovered in 1986 were catalogued into the MHS collections and are conserved at the Ft. Snelling History Center. Only those artifacts that could be dated based on distinctive markings were described in the final report.
Bassett's Creek Landfill - The great majority of the 797 artifacts recovered from this area by the construction monitoring are ceramic and glass tablewares or containers. Makers marks on the china indicate domestic and foreign manufactures. At least 75 different decorative patterns were evident. Two vessels had Minneapolis-related marks; an oval porcelain platter was made for "K. Aslesen" and a white plate said "The Rogers/Minneapolis." At least 11 bottles types were associated with Minnesota companies.
North Gateway Refuse Deposit - From the area north of Hennepin Avenue, the artifact sample recovered in 1986 was disappointingly small; 72 items total. The sample included 26 pieces of window glass, 14 cut nails, 4 leather scraps, 2 pieces of tin, 2 pieces of bottle glass, and single examples of a number of other artifact types. A plain whiteware sherd (1840-1890) and a white glass button (1840-1880) were the only datable artifacts.
Gateway Residential District - From the southern areas of the Gateway Residential District, a rich artifact sample was recovered in 1986. This included 296 refined earthenware sherds, 63 coarse earthenware sherds, 2 yellowware sherds, 1 Whieldon-Bennington type sherd, and 1 soft-paste porcelain sherd. While the types confirmed that the deposit dated to the early 1870s, the lack of porcelains and late types of transfer printing suggested that the occupants of the area were of a lower economic status.
Also found in the deposit were four bottles with makers marks, a single-bitted axe, two nickel-silver utensils, 427 leather scraps, and 1,006 pieces of animal bone. The extensive and well-preserved leather remains was also noted in 1983 and appear to be related to the leather-working shops in the Gateway Area to the west. The bone is largely from beef and pork cuts.
The artifacts from the southern part of the Gateway Residential District were sorted into six general categories modified from South (1977). These categories are: Kitchen (e.g., ceramics, container glass), Architecture (e.g., nails, window glass), Furniture (e.g., wood screws, mirror fragments), Clothing (e.g., shoes, buttons), Personal (e.g., jewelry, smoking pipes), and Activities (e.g., tools, toys). A graph of artifact percentages by class in the three excavation units (Figure ) suggests two anomalies between the units. The large number of the Clothing category (shoes and leather scraps) in S1975 and large number of Architecture category (nails) in S1850.
Other Locations - Little attempt was made to save representative samples of artifacts from other excavation units or monitoring areas. Occasional artifacts were saved, however, including a number of bottles bearing Minnesota markings.
Architectural remains were examined at the C,SP,M and O Roundhouse, the West Side Power Company, the Pacific Sawmill, the southern Gateway Residential District, the City Waterworks, and the Canal Gates. Refuse deposits were examined at the Bassett's Creek Landfill and northern and southern areas of the Gateway Residential District.
Most of the archaeological sites along the West River Parkway were not adversely impacted by the construction. Due to a last minute revision, the Union Depot remains were avoided. The refuse deposits in the Bassett's Creek and Gateway areas and the log slide remains at the Pacific Sawmill, although partially covered by the new roadway, were not severely disturbed as they were deeply buried. In the Mill District, the Canal Gates were avoided.
As to the sites that were adversely impacted by the construction, the upper sections of the Water Works foundations were removed, but significant remains still exist. The four northernmost bays and a portion of the north perimeter wall of the C,SP,M and O Roundhouse were destroyed, but most of the roundhouse foundation is still in place. The refuse deposits north and south of of Hennepin Avenue were not directly impacted by the West River Parkway construction but the roadway has now limited access to much of the sites. The most extensive destruction occurred at the West Side Power Company where the entire east wall and the eastern ends of the north and south walls were destroyed.
In 1987, as part of the mitigation of the adverse effect of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge project, Hennepin County contracted with the Minnesota Historical Society to remove one of the 1876 anchors on the west side of the river.
Robert Clouse of the MHS supervised the investigation. No report is available as of yet. The following description is based on field observations of the author.
A backhoe mounted jack hammer was employed to remove the limestone bedrock which covered the anchor. Using a crane, the approximately 5-ton anchor was removed from it bedrock cavity and was laid on the surface beneath the existing approach bridge.
The 1985 Hennepin Avenue Bridge excavation located both the upstream (northern) and downstream link bars for the 1876 suspension bridge. The iron link bars were cut off at approximately the top of the limestone, but they appeared to still be attached to anchors through slots cut in the limestone. The access tunnels to the 1876 anchors had been walled shut at the entrance to the anchor cavities.
In 1987, the area immediately around the downstream linkbars was first cleaned off to the top of the bedrock and the 13 linkbar stubs documented in 1985 were re-exposed. The jackhammer then removed the limestone cap around the linkbars creating a rectangular excavation approximately 5' x 8' in size. This exposed the cast iron anchor. The anchor was boat shaped and measured approximately 4' x 6' with about 5' of link bars. In front veiw, the anchor resembled a round keeled sailing ship with stubby masts. The anchor was not a solid casting but a grid work. Lead sheeting covered the top of the anchor, but this sheeting was stolen during the several months the anchor lay out in the open.
The downstream 1876 suspension bridge anchor was eventually moved to Ft. Snelling for storage prior to the construction of the new suspension bridge. It is not only a significant artifact of Minneapolis history worth preserving, but will be useful for interpretation. The up-stream anchor was destroyed by the new bridge construction.
HENNEPIN AVENUE BRIDGE MONITORING 1988-1989
Part of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge Memorandum of Agreement between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) called for monitoring the construction on the east side. Pre-construction archaeological testing had been prevented by the deep burial of the early bridge beneath the approach road on Nicollet Island.
Robert Clouse of the MHS carried out the monitoring. No report has yet been written regarding the findings. The following summary is based on field observations of the author and interviews with Clouse.
Once a feature had been exposed, construction was halted at that location. Further exposure was either conducted by hand or by supervising the machinery operator. The features were then cleaned off and photographed.
Removal of the east side approach fill began in July 1988 and continued into August. The excavation soon exposed the tower base of the second (1876) suspension bridge, the anchor housings of the second suspension bridge, and the southern anchor link bars of the first (1854) suspension bridge (Figure 49). At the south edge of the excavation a mortared limestone wall was also exposed which may have served as a retaining wall for the bridge approach (1876?) or was associated with a nineteenth century commercial building.
While no remains of the first suspension bridge towers were apparent, the lower part of the second suspension bridge towers had been incorporated into the abutment of the steel arch bridge (Plate 10). Courses of thick limestone blocks were ultimately exposed to a height of 22 feet beginning just below the approach roadway. Some of the blocks were 2' x 3' x 7'.
The second suspension bridge anchor housings appeared to have survived largely intact. They consisted of two massive mortared limestone rectangles (10' x 40') rising 14' above the base of the excavation (Plate 11). The tops of the anchor link bars were just visible in the back of the top surface of the anchor housings. The northern anchor housing was partially destroyed so the anchor and two link bars could be removed and saved. The link bars were 14' in length.
The southern link bars from the 1854 suspension bridge were located immediately west of the southern 1876 anchor housing. The tops of the 1854 link bars extended only about three feet above the base of the excavation. The links bars consisted of a double set of looped iron bars (Plate 12). The bars were linked by iron pins to a second set of bars which extended out of a rectangular portal of limestone. A sample of 5 bars and one pin were removed and saved.
Further excavation revealed wooden planks between the tower remnant and the northern 1876 anchor housing. These planks appeared to be the remains of a boardwalk perhaps dating to the 1854 bridge. A small section of the cedar boardwalk was removed and brought to Ft. Snelling. Unfortunately, they were not preserved.
As construction proceeded in late 1988, the east side 1876 tower base and 1890 abutments were knocked down. Basal portions of these features may still survive immediately west of the new suspension bridge towers. The 1876 anchor housings were left largely intact and buried immediately behind the new bridge abutment under approach fill.
In 1989, Clouse monitored the exposure of the upstream (northern) link bars from the 1854 bridge. They were documented and then reburied for in situ preservation. He also observed the removal of the northern 1876 anchor on the west side of the river, but this anchor was not saved although lead sheeting, wooden spacers, and samples of chiseled rock were saved. The west side tunnels were then filled with cement. During the removal of the western approach bridge, street car tracks were exposed beneath the asphalt.
The new Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge was completed in the summer of 1990. Overall, the 1983 - 1989 archaeological work documented the following elements of the 1854 and 1876 suspension bridges:
- two limestone tower foundations
(both preserved in situ)
- four link bar slots
- anchor access tunnel
(filled with cement)
- 2 sets anchor links
(one set preserved in situ,
one set partially removed
- 2 sets of cast iron anchors
(both preserved in situ)
- wooden walkway near south approach
(removed but not saved)
- anchor access tunnel
(filled with cement)
- 2 sets anchors with link bar stubs
(one set removed for preserva-
tion, one set not saved)
- 2 cavities/slots in limestone
- tower foundations
(preserved in situ)
- 2 sets anchors with link bars
(one set preserved in situ, one
removed for preservation)
- 2 anchor piers
(both preserved in situ)
- tower bases
With the completion of the northern segment of the West River Parkway in 1987, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board hired BRW Incorporated of Minneapolis and WRT Incorporated of Philadelphia to complete the final design for the southern portion of parkway. This southern segment includes the mill ruins along the 1st Street Canal where initial planning suggested that the ruins be exposed for an "archaeological park."
BRW/WRT subcontracted with the Minnesota Historical Society to undertake archaeological work for three purposes: 1) mitigate the adverse affects to the Heinrich Brewery ruins initially located in 1983, 2) do preliminary testing in the mill ruins to assess interpretive potentials, and 3) investigate areas of the parkway that were not extensively tested in 1983 in order to determine archaeological potentials. A last minute change in funding availability and landowner permission prevented the completion of the third listed task above.
Once again, Robert Clouse of the MHS Archaeology Department served as principal investigator. David Szondy, an English archaeologist experienced in industrial site excavations, was hired as the field director. Szondy was assisted in the field by three crew members along with the occasional use of a backhoe operator.
Field work was conducted between May 22 and September 22, 1989. North/south grids were established in both excavation areas with the grids containing 10 foot squares. The grids were tied into adjacent landscape features and Army Corps of Engineers benchmarks.
Excavation was principally accomplished through the use of backhoes mounting toothless ditching buckets. When features were encountered, shovels, trowels, picks, and brushes were used. No screening was done.
Vertical recording and site stratigraphy utilized the concept of "context" (Schofield 1980). Contexts are layers, deposits, features, cuts, or other aspects which may appear in the stratigraphy. Each context was assigned a number. The advantage to this system is that features are recorded without labels implying interpretation. Individual contexts can later be combined into discrete construction or demolition episodes. Each artifact recovered was assigned to a grid square and context.
The following summary is based on Szondy and Clouse (1990).
The Heinrich Brewery was built into the river bluffs at the southern end of Bohemian Flats. Archaeological testing in 1983 had located substantial stone, brick, concrete, and wood features as well as a cavern entrance.
The 1989 excavations at the Heinrich Brewery were limited to the area that would actually be affected by the West River Parkway construction and thus could not examine the entire western extent of the remains.
Only one building was uncovered in 1989 and this is presumed to be the main brewery. The 1983 excavations had located the southeast corner of this building and had followed the east wall for 21 feet to the north and the south wall for 15 feet to the south. A five-foot wide east-west trench was then opened through the building extending 60 feet west of the east wall between 16 and 21 feet north of the south wall. The west end of this trench encountered the brick-up entrance to a cave at the face of the bluff.
The 1989 excavations relocated the southeast corner of the building and then opened a rectangular area roughly 30 feet to the west and 50 feet to the north. This exposed a structure measuring 40 feet on the east (Figure 50). Exterior walls were four-foot thick mortared limestone with a maximum of 3.5 feet vertical sections surviving. The south and north walls are actually double walls with two two-foot thick sections. The inner wall had been constructed last.
The east wall had a doorway with three limestone steps leading up to a limestone and brick floored platform located outside of the east wall. The steps were centered 17 feet north of the southeast corner. Portions of the eastern floor and eastern wall had been destroyed by an east-west trench which had been dug sometime previous to 1903.
The interior of the building was floored with three different surfaces: yellow brick (Plate 13), rectangular cement slabs, and hexagonal cement flagstones. (The 1983 excavations encountered a wood floor in the west end of the building.) Two square limestone pillar bases were also present in the floor, approximately 12 feet apart center to center.
The flagstones in the southeast corner of the building were separated from the rest of the building by a wooden partition. Attached on the exterior of the north wall was a narrow (6 feet wide) corridor-like room with a wooden floor and massive limestone walls on all sides.
It would appear that the building remnants originally were below ground level representing the basement and foundation of the brewery. They evidence several building phases. The original walls were thin and relatively poorly constructed thus supporting a short, light superstructure. This building was later extensively remodeled with the east wall completely reconstructed and the north and south walls thickened.
The date of construction for small north room is not clear. It may date to the earliest construction as it abuts the north wall, but the extensive reconstruction of the building may involve the building of this north room too. The walls so not appear to have been designed to bear a heavy load. It may have simply been an entrance way into the storage cave.
The 1989 excavations also examined the brewery cave cut into the soft sandstone bluff. At the top of the bricked-up entrance was a narrow crawl space allowing access. Based on an interior survey, the opening to the cave was originally much wider and there were three entrances to the cave when the brewery was in operation.
The cavern consists of three main corridors extending west of the bluff face (Figure 51). These corridors are connected by side passages. Single cul-de-sacs are present on all three corridors with the southern cul-de-sac the most extensive. The middle corridor is the most elaborate, the largest, and probably the oldest. Part of this corridor may be natural.
The general condition of the cave is poor with extensive roof and wall collapses evident. Some walls were mortared or shorn-up with brick or stone masonry. Pick marks are still present on some of the walls. Most passages were originally 20 feet high and 20 feet wide. Wooden pegs set in the walls apparently were used to hang lanterns.
Two additional excavation areas west of the main brewery building failed to find extensive archaeological remains. These excavations consisted of a 10 x 30 foot trench just north of the building and a 10 x 60 foot trench 40 feet west of the building.
Coon and Clapp Woolen Mill-Empire Mill/Pillsbury B-King Midas Elevator - This complex site was initially used for a woolen mill in 1865. In the early 1870s it was converted into a flour mill which was enlarged in 1878. The mill burned on December 4, 1881. The site remained vacant until 1888 when the Pillsbury Company built a brick elevator there for the nearby Pillsbury B Mill. The elevator was sold to the King Midas division of the Peavey Company in 1928 and abandoned in 1962. It was destroyed by a fire on April 25, 1969. The site will be referred to as the Empire Mill/King Midas Elevator site as these two names are most clearly identified with the buildings that occupied the site.
Until recently, the east end of the ruins of Empire Mill/King Midas Elevator were the only visible remains of the extensive mill row located south of Portland Avenue and east of 1st Street. The other ruins of the mill complex were covered with gravel by the J.L. Shiely Company in the mid-1960s. Only the ruins at the northeastern end of the complex escaped burial.
The Empire/King Midas site was chosen for excavation in 1989 because of the partial exposure of the remains and the fact that it would interrupt Shiely operations the least. At the time of the excavation, a small parking lot occupied most of the site.
The archaeological excavations at the Empire/King Midas site were perhaps the least traditional archaeological exercise undertaken on the Minneapolis riverfront. Actual digging consisted of removing a thin layer of gravel from the north, south, and west walls of the building which were in the parking lot at street level and cleaning off debris from the terraces and ledges at the east end of the complex which represented the outside features of the basement levels. The rubble which fills the building interior was not removed. Much of the excavation had to be undertaken by hand due to access problems for machinery.
Excavations in the parking lot exposed the tops of all four exterior building walls. All of the walls were constructed of mortared limestone. The south wall was in the poorest shape. On top of an east wall offset course are traces of brickwork from the elevator wall.
The west wall incorporates at least one doorway and several windows. The north wall also has window openings. The east wall, which extends downward at least 30 feet, has four windows and an arched doorway sealed with cinder blocks.
The interior of the building is dominated by a concrete pad set offcenter to the northwest (Figure 52). Tops of several horizontal I-beams were evident in the concrete. A bootprint was found in the surface of the concrete. At least two basement stories appear to exist below the concrete pad based on east wall stratigraphy.
Along the east wall are some of the most complex and oldest features of the site. One of the older features is a limestone "tower" near the center of the wall which may have supported a link to the Minneapolis Eastern railroad trestle and also helped support the walls of an iron-clad room.
Along the east wall south of the tower is a reinforced concrete floor supported by the tower and three brick pillars. The floor is enclosed on all sides with masonry including a sealed doorway. Since the top of this room is open its was referred to as the "open terrace" by the excavators.
Below the "open terrace" is a partially enclosed room that is open to the east except for the three brick pillars. This room was referred to as the "closed terrace." The floor of this room is natural limestone.
North of the limestone tower is a terrace which supports a turbine assembly. It was referred to as the "machine terrace." The floor of this room is reinforced concrete. Wall remnants on the east and south are of brick. Impressions of corrugated sheeting in the mortar indicates the room was partially iron clad. Below this floor is a brick walled shaft containing the draft tube (water outlet) for the turbine assembly.
North of the turbine terrace is what was called the "switch room" because heavy electrical wires protruded from the reinforced concrete floor. The switch room once contained some fairly massive machinery as indicated by I-beams in the floor and two sturdy footings. The switch room is enclosed with brick walls. A layer of glassy, fused rubble in the northeast corner of the room evidences the intense heat from the 1969 fire. Beneath the switch room is the headrace (water inlet) pipe from the canal to the turbine.
Immediately north of the switch room is an open run-off for a storm drain. The trough is cut into the native limestone. The run-off trough extends 30 feet east and then turns north for 25 feet before turning east again. The easternmost 15 feet of the trough empties into a catchment area which has a concrete drain pipe to the tailrace system.
The run-off trough is bordered on the north by a concrete wall and on the east by a mortared limestone wall. Above the walls is a concrete floor. The floor was used as a small parking lot with an access off of Portland Avenue.
On the limestone ledge with the run-off trough are a series of two foot steps descending to the tailrace. The north end of the exposed ledge abutting Portland Avenue has two mortared limestone pillars which supported the Minneapolis Eastern Railroad trestle. A concrete retaining wall links the pillars and extends on either side. Southwest of the limestone pillars are remnants of two brick pillars which supported a spur to the trestle.
Tailrace Excavation - South of the limestone trestle supports and east of the Empire Mill/King Midas Elevator an excavation unit was opened in an attempt to expose a portion of the tailrace outlets (Plate 14). This area was covered with a fine sand which made backhoe excavation very difficult as the walls were continually collapsing. Only a small portion of the tailrace could be exposed.
The top of the tailrace wall was encountered at 754 feet above sealevel; this was 18 feet below the surface. The wall was built of small chunks of mortared limestone. The lower three to four feet of the wall was covered with a concrete facing. The bottom of the tailrace was covered with water, but appeared to be at about 746 feet above sealevel thus making the tailrace eight feet deep.
The excavation not only exposed a small edge of the tailrace wall, but the base of a railway trestle support column resting on the wall. This allowed for exact provenience control as the support column appears on ca. 1890 photographs and maps.
The interior of the northern part of the tailrace system was also explored in 1989. Access was gained by means of a spiral staircase beneath a trapdoor near the outlet excavation area. The staircase drops 40 feet to a concrete tunnel partially filled with water. A wooden catwalk just above water level in the tunnel allows crawlspace access to the tailrace system.
The tailrace system itself is partially flooded by storm drains and sanitary sewer breaks. At least half of the system is flooded to a depth of eight feet. Portions of the system could only be reached by rubber raft. The difficult access to the tailraces and transportation problems within the system made detailed surveying and high quality photography almost impossible.
The tailraces were excavated into the soft sandstone using the limestone as a natural ceiling. The walls were then lined with masonry to prevent erosion. The oldest tunnels were those to the Cataract and Holly mills dating to 1859. These tunnels are lined with worked limestone set in a good quality mortar. Rounded alcoves in the tunnel contain four-foot diameter iron draft tubes which led to turbines above. The mouth of the Cataract-Holly tunnel is formed by a yellow brick arch. The exit has been sealed by cinder blocks pierced with a 36-inch concrete pipe.
The main tunnel at the north end of the tailrace system runs beneath the 1st Street canal and then begins to angle out to the river just before Portland Avenue (Figure 53). The area just beyond the mouth of this tunnel was the area excavated in 1989.
The walls of the 1st Street tunnel are made in sections of limestone blocks and formed ferroconcrete. Stonework dominates the lower part of the tunnel. The wooden catwalk that once ran through the tunnel has been reduced to a jumble of rotting timbers as far as the junction with the St. Anthony Mill spur. This area is flooded with raw sewage.
The walls of the St. Anthony spur are lined with concrete except for the drop shaft alcove which is lined with limestone. No draft tube is present in the alcove and the hole through the ceiling has been plugged with concrete and an iron access cover.
Branching off the 1st Street tunnel just prior to the St. Anthony spur is the tunnel to the Dakota and Standard mills. The wall of this tunnel is lined with concrete while the alcoves are lined with glazed brick. Draft tubes are present in both alcoves. The tunnel floor is covered with fine sand. An older Standard Mill tunnel extends from the alcove to the southeast, but this tunnel is sealed in the alcove except for a small slot at the top.
The next fork of the 1st Street tunnel moving north is where the Crown Mill and Columbia-Occidental spurs diverge. The Crown spur is a short, wide section supported in the center by a concrete column. The walls are lined with limestone masonry. The Crown spurs ends in a high concrete wall inset with pipes and a pair of three-foot steel doors. One of the doors is open and leads to a pyramidal concrete room with a 15 x 15 foot base. At the apex is a square shaft leading to a corrugated iron ceiling about 40 feet above the floor.
On the west side of the Crown Mill spur is a landing running to a brick-lined corridor ending in a circular room. It contains an iron shaft described on a plan as a sump. Another branch off the Crown spur to the south leads to two similar rooms.
The branch of the 1st Street tunnel leading to the Columbia and Occidental mills is also lined with limestone masonry for most of its length. At the north end it is lined with concrete. The draft tube alcove for the Columbia Mill is brick lined and still contains the iron tube. The Occidental alcove is also brick lined and contains two tubes.
East of the 1st Street tunnel is the City tunnel which leads to the municipal waterworks site. The mouth of the tunnel has been walled off. A maintenance cover allows access. The tunnel is supported along its center by 15 brick pillars. The tunnel floor is covered with wooden planks and clay.
The east wall of the City tunnel is made of mortared limestone. The west wall is of similar construction except for some brick and concrete sections. Two brick areas contain side entrances to the Union and St. Anthony mill alcoves. The draft tube of the Union Mill is in place in a wood-lined alcove.
At the upper end of the City tunnel are three draft tube alcoves lined with glazed brick. Unlike other alcoves there has been little silting here and the bottoms of the draft tubes are not buried. The tubes stop about two to three feet short of the floor allowing for water outflow. A deflection cone is set in a curved basin in the floor to reduce erosion.
The tailrace tunnel system has also served as a utility access to sewer lines, water pipes, and natural gas pipes carried along the tunnel ceiling. All of the lines are in the north end of the system are no longer utilized.
Cataract, Holly, and Union Mills - East of 1st Street and north of Portland Avenue are the earliest mills and also the smallest mills that were built along the West Side waterpower canal. From Portland Avenue the mills are the Cataract (1859), the Holly (1867), the Union (1861), and the St. Anthony (1866). In 1989, the tops of the front foundations of all the mills were visible along 1st Street along with extensive sections of the south and east foundations of the Cataract Mill.
The principal objective of the excavations at these sites was determine the conditions of the interior walls. The secondary objective was to locate any surviving remnants of turbines or draft tubes. Artifacts from lower levels were also to be collected. Only two days were available for the excavation and the backfilling.
Two excavation trenches were opened. Trench 1 was centered over the Holly Mill, placed to examine the common wall between the Cataract and Holly mills and the common wall between the Holly and Union mills. Trench 2 was located near the north wall of the Union Mill to assess the wall between the St. Anthony/Arctic and Union mills.
At the machine limit of eight feet in Trench 1, the attempt to find turbine remains was abandoned as only building rubble was present. Clearly lower floors were below the reach of the backhoe. The interior stratigraphy consists of a thin topsoil followed by building rubble and lenses of redeposited sand. The rubble in the Cataract Mill is limestone, the rubble in the Holly Mill is largely brick, and the rubble in the Union Mill is a mixture of limestone and brick.
The walls are all composed of coursed, small quarry-faced limestone blocks set with a sandy mortar. The Cataract-Holly wall is the most carefully laid of the three walls examined. All of the walls are currently in a relatively fragile condition owing to the poor quality of the mortar.
Over 5,500 artifacts were recovered by the 1989 testing. As with the earlier riverfront excavations, little analysis was attempted. The collections are conserved at the Ft. Snelling History Center.
Heinrich Brewery - None of the 3,892 artifact finds can be directly associated with brewing. About half the items are building hardware or structural elements such as nails, bolts, hinges, pipes, drain tiles, and window pane fragments. Nails and window glass fragments alone make up 36% of the artifacts. Most of these items were deposited during the building demolition.
The non-architectural artifacts are mainly fragments of bottle glass or ceramic tablewares. The ceramics are whitewares or coarse earthenwares. Many of the coarse earthenwares are from storage containers. No makers marks were noticed. Most of the bottle glass is from clear, 2-3 inch diameter bottles. Some are beer bottles dating to the brewery operation, but many other types of bottles were also present.
Empire Mill/King Midas Elevator - Almost all of the 1,425 artifacts from this site can be placed in the category of building hardware. The artifacts include pipe of various sizes, valve handles, electrical insulators, bolts, and nails. Half the artifacts were found on the machine terrace in the vicinity of the turbine. Two intact brick bats of different types were also retained. Many of the bricks were marked "Mitchell of St. Louis" and were less friable than locally made yellow brick.
Heinrich Brewery - As with most archaeological excavations, the Heinrich Brewery excavations raised more questions than they answered. It is clear that the insurance maps are highly inaccurate with regard to a number of factors. Horizontal locations of exterior walls were off by at least 20 feet. The position of the building that was uncovered did not directly correspond to any of the structures shown on the insurance maps.
The insurance maps are helpful in establishing general building layout and what parts of the buildings housed particular activities. Based on this, the building exposed would appear to be the main brewery structure. Unfortunately, there is not a single piece of artifactual or featural evidence clearly suggesting building function, except perhaps the cavern. If this building had been excavated without the use of a literature search, we would not know that it was a brewery.
The 1989 excavations documented two building phases and four destruction phases at the Heinrich Brewery. The initial building phase involved the construction of the outer portions of the north and south walls. The second building phase involved the construction of the inner portions of the north and south walls, the complete replacement of the east wall, the construction of the east wall platform, and the placement of most of the flooring.
The first destruction phase involved the demolition of the building superstructure and the deposition of fill in the basement. The second destruction phase involved the digging of an east-west ditch across the southern part of the site. The third destruction phase consisted of leveling the site and placing aggregate fill for the construction of oil storage tanks. The grading may have destroyed the upper portions of the basement walls and any remnants of less substantial foundations to the north. This phase is considered as a construction phase in Szondy and Clouse (1990) because the oil storage depot was actually built thus producing another cultural feature.
The fourth destruction phase involved the demolition of the oil storage tanks which appears to have had little impact on the brewery remains which had been covered with fill. The site was then used as a dump for street sweeping debris and snow removal which deposited an additional layer of mixed fill.
A fifth destruction phase has now been accomplished with the construction of the West River Parkway in 1990.
Empire Mill/King Midas Elevator - The literature search suggests there were at least eight depositional phases at this site: 1) construction of the woolen mill - 1865, 2) conversion to a flour mill - 1872, 3) renovation of the flour mill - 1878, 4) burning of the flour mill - 1881, 5) site vacant - 1881-1888, 6) construction of the elevator and railroad spurs - 1888, 7) burning of the elevator - 1969, and 8) recent debris accumulation.
The 1989 excavations revealed eight phases: 1) south wall, 2) limestone foundations on the east, west, and north, 3) brickwork on top of limestone foundations, 4) extension in "open terrace" area, 5) brick facing on east wall, turbine installation, iron clad room near "machine terrace", 6) "switch room" constructed, 7) railway pillars, concrete drain, and 8) destruction of elevator by fire.
It is clear that the excavation phases do not exactly match the phases determined by the literature search, but a number of the phases do indeed match. The south wall probably dates to the original construction of the Clapp Woolen Mill and adjacent Minneapolis Mill in 1865 as indicated by the marked difference in the limestone blocks and quality of the mortar. The other three limestone foundation walls appear to date to the 1878 modification of the Empire Flour Mill. The limestone "tower" may also date to this period. There was no direct evidence for the 1872 modification of the woolen mill into the flour mill.
The transition of the burned-out remnant of the flour mill to the elevator can be seen in the bricked-up area of the east wall on the machine terrace area. Rather than re-use the rubble buried turbine room of the earlier mill, the elevator builders in 1888 constructed an exterior turbine room. The adjacent "switch room" may have also been constructed at this time or slightly later. The destruction of the elevator by fire in 1969 is clearly evidenced by charred and fused debris deposits.
As with the Heinrich Brewery, there is little evidence suggested by the features or artifacts indicating the function of the buildings as a woolen mill, a flour mill, and an elevator. All that can be said of function based on the archaeological remains examined in 1989 is that the building clearly contained heavy machinery that was at one time water-powered and it was directly linked to a railway system. The interior of the building may still contain artifacts directly related to the flour mill.
Tailraces - The limited excavation of the tailrace exterior and the survey of the northern interior indicated that the tailrace system is in relatively good repair. Only the Cataract tunnel and some of the branch tunnels are in need of some work. Most of the iron draft tubes are still in place. The main preservation problem is to control the flooding in the system due to storm sewer and sanitary sewer incursions.
Cataract-Holly-Union Mills - The 1989 excavations documented that the interiors of the buildings are filled with rubble to a depth of at least eight feet. No interior features or datable artifacts were encountered. Interior walls are in poor condition and would require extensive repair if exposed.
In addition to the official archaeological monitoring undertaken as part of the West River Parkway and Hennepin Avenue bridge projects, the author of this report has periodically visited the Minneapolis riverfront to view construction projects and to photodocument the rapid changes in the area over the last seven years. A number of these visits encountered exposures of significant archaeological remains.
Because this informal monitoring has not been conducted as part of any contractual obligations, the documentation is somewhat haphazard. Color slides have been taken in each instance, but written field notes are available in only a few of the instances.
Prior to the beginning of construction on the northern portion West River Parkway, the shoofly at the west end of the Burlington Northern Railroad bridge had to be removed. Backhoe excavations between the shoofly and the main track encountered large rectangular sandstone blocks. An examination of the blocks indicated they were probably part of the abutment of the earlier railroad bridge that had been built by the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1867. The top of the abutment was about four feet below the surface.
Following the fire that gutted the Crown Roller Mill in late 1983, the city initially intended to tear down the partially collapsed exterior walls. A month after the fire, the city council agreed with historic preservationists and decided to shore-up the walls in order for the building exterior to be restored. The collapsed floors and charred beams were finally cleaned out of the buildings interior in early 1986. The debris removal exposed the wall interiors and part of the foundation. The reconstruction contractors were amazed to find the northwest corner of the building had no foundation.
In order to provide drainage, the reconstruction architects wanted to route the drainage through the Crown Mill turbine housing into the tailrace system. The author of this report accompanied Jeffrey Hess and two building engineers in an inspection of the Crown Mill Tailrace. A raft made of inner tubes and planks was poled through the sewage-filled main tailrace to the entrance of the Crown Mill tailrace which was dry. Walking up the tailrace to the drop shaft alcove, the expedition found the draft tubes from the turbine housing still inplace. The draft tubes and various sections of the tailrace system were photographed.
Several months later, the turbine and an attached shaft were pulled from the exposed Crown Mill wheel pit. This proved much more difficult than anticipated as the turbine was tightly anchored within the tube. The turbine and shaft were set in front of the Crown Mill on 1st Street until a more permanent storage facility could be found. It was hoped that the turbine could be used in an interpretive facility. The turbine and shaft soon disappeared, however, and according to the construction company "was stolen." The thief of this iron artifact (weighing over a ton) has never been apprehended.
Engineers for the West River Parkway segment through the mill district were concerned that the deck over the waterpower canal at the intersection of Portland Avenue and 1st Street was not structurally sound. In October of 1986, the demolition of the reinforced deck began. The deck was much sounder than predicted and proved very difficult to remove. The deck was supported by large concrete beams interconnected with concrete covered steel I-beams. The deck extended down 1st Street from the south edge of the Crown Mill to Portland Avenue.
In early 1987, Jeffrey Hess and the author of this report documented the exposure of several structural features during the construction of the plaza east of the Standard Mill (Whitney Hotel) and south of the Crown Mill. The plaza was being developed on the site of the Model and Dakota mills. Hess wrote a letter to the SHPO describing the features and the following description is largely based on that report.
The larger of the two features was an L-shaped concrete wall running 12.5 feet east-west and 11.9 feet north-south. The upper three feet of the wall were exposed. Both legs contained embedded sections of I-beams and the east-west wall also contained a brick infill section that may have been a window opening. The east-west leg was located 110 feet south of the Crown Mill Boiler House and about 89 feet east of the Standard Mill.
The second feature was a pyramidal-shaped block immediately northwest of the L-shaped wall. Of the top three feet exposed, the base was 2.3 feet by 4.3 feet. Protruding from the flat top were two 1.5 inch steel rods.
The concrete feature appears to represent the south wall of the Model Mill. The Model Mill was originally built in 1863 and rebuilt after fires in 1883 and 1894. It was consolidated with the adjacent Dakota Mill in the 1920s to become part of the King Midas Mill. The concrete work appears to be of early twentieth century origin and may date to the consolidation. The pyramidal block appears to have been a machinery base within the Model Mill.
Also exposed by the plaza construction was the headrace canal to the Standard Mill. This spur from the 1st Street Canal ran east-west along the south edge of the Crown Mill Boiler House. Prior to the construction, the northern three-quarters was covered with a concrete deck while the southern quarter was covered with a steel grate. The construction revealed that top of the headrace had concrete beams similar to the deck support for the 1st Street Canal. Also revealed was a trash gate that had been placed in the raceway to prevent debris from entering the Standard Mill waterpower turbine.
In June of 1987, sewer construction along 1st Street not only destroyed a portion of the granite paved street surface, but cut through a large portion of the Crown Mill headrace. Unlike the Standard Mill headrace, the Crown Mill headrace was a completely covered arched tunnel. The tunnel surface was faced with brick. The top of the tunnel was about six feet below the surface.
Also noted in the backdirt piles from the excavation were curved pieces of cedar and strap iron. Scars on the surface of the cedar indicated that the cedar had been tightly wrapped with the strap iron to form sections of pipe perhaps 12 inches in diameter. These were remnants of the first city waterlines dating to the 1860s. The first city waterworks were located immediately to the east. A section of the cedar and a piece of the iron strapping were saved and are conserved at the Ft. Snelling History Center.
On November 10, 1987 the foundation of the Lower Hydrostation was partially undercut by the river. The plant was immediately shut down, but water to continued to erode the building supports. On the afternoon of November 11, the entire east end of the 90-year old power plant collapsed into the river. An earthen coffer dam was immediately built upstream of the station in order to prevent undercuting of the east end of the Lower Dam. The Corps of Engineers lowered the upstream pool level to relieve the pressure.
In December, most of the superstructure of the hydrostation was torn down and the debris from the collapse removed. What remained was the uncollapsed portions of the floor and the bottom half of the back wall supporting the turbines. This allowed for inspection of the scour hole which caused the collapse and inspection of the upstream foundations of the building.
The lowering of the pool between the Upper and Lower dams exposed the basal remnant of the original Lower Dam. The outline of entire 1890s dam was clearly visible as it became a low waterfall in the shallow main channel.
In August of 1988, Northern State Power (NSP) applied for a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit to demolish the remainder of the building. Although an Adverse Effect determination was issued by the Minnesota State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), the demolition of the turbine support wall proceeded. Seven of the ten turbine units were salvaged.
The only remnants of the Lower Hydrostation still surviving are the earth covered concrete floor, portions of the arched masonry foundations, and a 12-15 foot section of the western masonry wall which abuts the current Lower Dam. Also surviving is the masonry forebay retaining wall which extends for about 575 feet along the upstream riverbank.
The building remnants will probably be destroyed by the construction of a new hydropower station now proposed for the site. The forebay retaining wall will be re-used by the new power plant. The SHPO has recommended that the new plant be built in a manner that is architecturally unintrusive to the historic distict.
In the spring of 1988, construction began on the Riverwest Apartments at the site of the Pray Ironworks. Pray Ironworks was built in 1878 with major additions in 1879 and 1881. It closed in 1886 and the buildings were used by various industries until torn down in 1914 for the expansion of the Minneapolis Eastern Railroad Yards. A brick enginehouse was built at the northeast edge of the site. In the 1940s an iron clad freight depot was built at the south end of the site. When the railroad tracks were removed in the 1970s, most of the site was paved with asphalt for a parking lot. The freight depot was torn down for the Riverwest construction.
The mid-April of 1988 Riverwest construction began. By the end of May, the basement excavation covered almost the entire Pray site. Only the portion occupied by the Minneapolis Eastern Enginehouse (First Street Station) at the northeastern corner of the site and a small area immediately south of the enginehouse were not excavated. Because the project was entirely financed with private funds and on private property, no archaeological impact assessment was required. The author of this report visited the site for short periods of time from mid-April to mid-June.
Excavation began on the north and moved to the south and then the east. The first exposed feature noted was a small mortared limestone rectangular wall in the northeastern portion of the site. Based on the 1885 Sanborn Map (see Figure 16), this would appear to be the base of an elevator shaft.
The only other feature noted in the excavation of the northern half of the site was a concrete building cornerstone found 8-9 feet down in fill near the west edge of the excavation. The cornerstone was approximately 3 feet square by 1.5 feet tall. The incised inscription on one exterior face read "Grimshaw - Architect." The other face had the date "June 26" followed by a damaged year which appeared to have been "1891."
A search of city directories noted an R.E. Grimshaw first listed as a builder from 1880 to 1883 and a William H. Grimshaw listed as an architect in 1881. By 1884 R.E. Grimshaw is also listed as an architects. By 1890 only William Grimshaw is still listed and his listing disappears by 1900. A newspaper search may reveal the building from which the cornerstone came.
By early May, the excavation had reached the middle of the site. A number of mortared wall sections were revealed. One short segment is a foundation remnant of the interior building complex, while the other segments were foundations of the exterior buildings in the southeastern portion of the complex. Based on the 1880 Minneapolis Eastern RR Map, these were the remnants of buildings constructed in the late 1870s.
Extensive segments of the southeastern building foundation were exposed. These segments included the northern half of the eastern wall, most of the northern wall, and the northern half of the western wall. Several massive limestone blocks were also noted in the building interior extending to the east from the western wall.
A portion of the inside face of the eastern wall was cleaned off, measured, and photographed. The stratigraphy of the wall consisted of the asphalt cap followed by a foot of sand and then two feet of rubble fill. The mortared limestone foundation wall began about three feet below the surface and was about three feet thick at the top. The limestone wall extended for about nine feet down. The base of the wall was constructed of 7 inch thick limestone blocks resting on 7 inches of sand followed by grey clay. On the wall exterior resting on the limestone blocks was a 4 inch thick wooden beam underlain by 4 inches of sand. A thin layer of coal was also noticed on the wall facing about 8.5 feet down.
The stratigraphy of the western wall was similar except that a foot high mortared brick wall still existed at the top of the limestone foundation. The massive limestone blocks mentioned above extended out from the middle of the base of the exposed portion of this wall. They may have supported an interior wall or heavy machinery. The 1885 Sanborn Map shows this to be the location of main engine room for the ironworks with the boiler room located immediately to the west.
The only other features noted at the south end of the excavation were cement block wall remnants in the interior center and a concrete slab remnant to the southeast.These were clearly foundations of the freight depot dating to the 1940s.
No artifacts were saved from the excavation, but numerous pieces of iron, glass, pipe, and wire were noted in the excavation and in backdirt piles. Subsequent construction of the Riverwest foundation appears to have destroyed all features noted by the archaeological monitoring.
In November of 1989, the US Postal Service began construction on an addition to the main Minneapolis Post Office along the western riverfront south of Hennepin Avenue. The addition extended on the lower river terrace along the entire front of the existing post office from the edge of the West River Parkway to the retaining wall abutting the existing building. Although the Postal Service had been notified that there would be adverse impacts archaeological sites, they choose to ignore this notification in violation of Section 106 requirements.
Informal construction excavation monitoring in late 1988 and early 1989 documented that the post office expansion destroyed or covered much of the western half of the Gateway Residential Area archaeological site, destroyed the southwestern portion of the Union Depot remains, and removed extensive portions of the retaining wall built in the 1880s.
The Gateway Residential Area suffered the most significant damage. This site had been tested in 1983 and 1986 yielding extensive artifactual remains from the mid-nineteenth century. The Post Office addition construction excavations were taken to bedrock for 75 east of the retaining wall. The bedrock then rapidly slopes downward towards the river. The construction excavation continued for another 65 feet, sloping down to about seven feet deep near the edge of the West River Parkway. The construction manager stated that additional deeper excavations were planned for the north end of the site. Deeper footing excavations filled with recently poured concrete were also noted along the eastern and southern portions of the building site.
The 1983 archaeological excavations revealed that the residential deposit was largely located south of the Union Depot, essentially resting on the nineteenth century riverbank. The artifactual deposit began where the limestone started to slope downward. The thickest portion of the deposit (ca. four feet) existed about 10 feet west of the limestone dropoff (see Figure 33). The 1986 archaeological excavations near the south end of the Gateway river flats also encountered the refuse deposit as well as two mortared limestone pedestals.
An examination of the eastern edge of the Post Office construction excavation indicated that at least 15 linear feet of the the 1860s-1870s artifact horizon was destroyed and another 50' covered by the building thus denying archaeological access. This is the thickest and richest portion of the deposit. The limestone pedestals documented in 1986 would have also been destroyed.
Only the southwestern corner of the Union Depot would have been impacted, but construction here was not monitored so it is not known what archaeological materials were encountered.
In late August of 1990, most of the Milwaukee Road freighthouse was demolished due to its poor structural condition. Only a small, two story brick office fronting on 3rd Avenue S. was left standing.
The freighthouse was built in 1878-79. It consisted of the brick office on 3rd Avenue, a long gable-roofed freightshed with one story brick walls, and another two-story brick office building on the south end. A second freightshed with two story brick walls was added to the south end of the building in the early twentieth century replacing an earlier wooden structure that had been there since the early 1870s.
Following the removal of the freighthouse roof and brick walls, the cleaned out interior revealed mortared limestone foundation walls extending several feet above and several feet below street level. The top of the limestone would have been level with loading platform. Small window openings were regularly spaced along the top of the limestone wall.
The upper portions of the limestone wall were then knocked down and the surface graded. An asphalt parking lot now occupies the site south of the surviving office building.
In September of 1990, the wooden planked surface was removed from the loading platform of the Pillsbury A Mill. The loading platform extended along most of the west side of the original mill at street level. The planks rested on steel I-beams with approximate one foot gaps between. Through the gaps could be seen the headrace entrance into the A Mill and the tunnel leading north up Main Street.
The headrace entrance to the A Mill was about halfway down the loading dock. The top of the arched entrance was faced with a thin layer of mortar and was perhaps four to five feet below the I-beams. Upstream (south) of the entrance was a metal gate that apparently could be opened and closed. The bottom of the canal beneath the platform contained shallow water and sand.
The surface of the platform was covered with a steel deck within two weeks of the wooden deck removal. The new decking was laid on top of the old I-beams. A small cement block building was then constructed over the headrace.
In August of 1990, the MPRB finally obtained title to the mill ruins south of Portland Avenue and east of 1st Street. The J. L. Shiely Company began removing the gravel piles which had covered all but the northern end of the ruins since the mid-1960s. The gravel was removed to sidewalk level.
Once the gravel had been removed, the tops of the front walls of almost all the mill ruins could be seen. Portions of the walls were swept off and photographed. This has clearly demonstrated the survival of the basement level mill ruins along the east side of the canal.
© 1999 The Institute for Minnesota Archaeology
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Updated 29 Jun 1999