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Vol. 48, No. 1-2                                1989



Scott F. Anfinson
Minnesota Historical Society

© 1989 Minnesota Archaeological Society


Table of Contents
Historical Background
Archaeological Site Inventory

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

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

Archaeological Site Inventory

The Mississippi River in central Minneapolis held both great promise and presented great problems for the original white settlers. The great promises were in its waterpower potentials and its water transportation links with the forests of the north and the booming cities to the south. The great problems were in harnessing the waterpower, providing access to river boats up the rock-filled channel from St. Paul, and conventiently crossing between the two banks.

The harnessing of the waterpower and interbank transportation were effectively dealt with in the mid-1850s. A V-shaped dam was built in the main channel, directing the water to the milling complexes on either side. This dam linked with the earlier east channel dam at the south end of Nicollet Island and the Farnham and Lovejoy Dam at the head of Hennepin Island. In 1866, a wooden apron was placed over St. Anthony Falls to prevent further recession of the Falls which had been accelerated by industrial development.

The Army Corps of Engineers finished the apron project when they had to deal with the Eastman Tunnel disaster in the early 1870s. In order to prevent the Falls from being undercut, the Corps constructed a concrete dike beneath the limestone above the Falls. The Corps has been intensely involved with the Minneapolis riverfront ever since. The apron and main channel dam have been replaced and repaired many times over the last century. The Lower Dam was originally built in 1897 for hydroelectric purposes and torn down in 1959 for the construction of the current Lower Lock and Dam.

Using Nicollet Island as a stepping stone, the Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge linked the two sides of the river in 1854. Other bridges at Broadway (Christmas) Avenue and 20th Avenue S. were also built in the 1850s, but they only lasted a few years. The St. Paul and Pacific Railroad bridge also utilized Nicollet Island in 1867 to bridge the Mississippi. The Upper (Plmouth Avenue) and Lower (10th Avenue S.) bridges linked the newly consolidated cites of St. Anthony and Minneapolis in 1874.

Other early bridges of importance along the central riverfront that are now gone include the Second Hennepin Avenue Suspension Bridge (1876-1890), the Hennepin Avenue Steel Arch Bridge (1889-1989), the east channel Hennepin Avenue Stone Arch Bridge (1878-1965)), the Minneapolis Western Railroad Bridge (1891-1952), and the First Washington Avenue Bridge (1884-1965). Bridges still in place (Figure 46) include the Stone Arch Railroad Bridge (1883), the 3rd Avenue Bridge (1917), and the Northern Pacific Railroad Bridge (1887).

Early attempts to clear the channel below St. Anthony Falls were not successful. Steamboat traffic to the municipal landing below the University bend was sporatic in the nineteenth century and generally only occured during times of high water. With the construction of Lock and Dam #1 in 1917, river traffic was allowed to the reach the municipal landing just south of Bohemian Flats. The completion of the Lower St. Anthony Lock and Dam in 1956 and the Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam in 1963 allowed river traffic to bypass St. Anthony Falls and reach the northern limits of Minneapolis.

    IB-1. Upper/Plymouth Avenue Bridge (1874-1886/1886-1983)

When the cities of St. Anthony and Minneapolis consolidated in 1872, Minneapolis agreed to build two new bridges across the Mississippi River, one above and one below the Hennepin Avenue suspension bridge. In 1874, a bridge was completed linking Plymouth Avenue on the west side with 8th Avenue NE on the east side. This bridge was originally known as the Upper Bridge and was a wooden Howe Truss (Figure 47). The wooden bridge was replaced in 1886 with an iron truss. Major improvements to the iron bridge were made in 1913 and 1952. The iron truss bridge was replaced in 1983 with a concrete span. Remnants of the 1874 and 1886 abutments may still exist.

References: Atwater (1893:352).

    IB-2. St. Paul and Pacific RR Bridge (1867/ca.1890/1960)

In 1867, the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad built the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. It was built from the middle of Nicollet Island to the foot of 3rd Avenue North at a cost of $75,000. The bridge was a wooden Howe Truss with three inter-channel piers (Figure 48). A shorter bridge was built across the east channel to Nicollet Island. The main channel bridge was rebuilt as a beam-span structure about 1890. In 1960 a truss section was added to allow river navigation to pass beneath. When the western abutments were reconstructed in 1986 in conjunction with the West River Parkway project, large red sandstone blocks from an earlier abutment were encountered. The abutment was destroyed by the West River Parkway construction.

References: Warner et al. (1881:370), Atwater (1893:353).

    IB-3. First Hennepin Avenue Suspension Bridge (1854 - 1876)

In 1852 Franklin Steele, H.H. Sibley, Frank Morrison, and others formed a company to build a bridge across the Mississippi River. They hired Thomas Griffith to be the engineer. Griffith had helped John Roebling (of Brooklyn Bridge fame) build the Niagara Falls suspension bridge in 1850.

By the end of 1854, the bridge was finished, making it the first permanent bridge to span the Mississippi throughout its entire length (Figure 48). The structure was a suspension bridge 620 feet long and 17 feet wide. The towers were of wood with stone bases. Cast iron anchors placed below the limestone bedrock held the wire support cables. The anchors were the first large castings made in Minnesota.

The bridge was a privately owned toll bridge until 1869 when Hennepin County bought it. The city of Minneapolis took control a year later. The bridge was torn down in 1876 when a new stone towered suspension bridge was built adjacent to it on the north.

Extensive remains of the first suspension bridge were encountered during archaeological explorations in 1983, 1985, amd 1988.

References: St. Anthony Express (1/27/55); Heilbron (1948); Bromley (1890:174-175); Atwater (1893:31,349-351); Warner et al. (1881:369-370); Hudson (1907:39); Stevens (1890:238); Mississippi Valley Lumberman (9/14/76/, 2/1/95); Tordoff (1984); Tordoff and Clouse (1985).

    IB-4. Second Hennepin Avenue Suspension Bridge (1876 - 1890)

By the mid-1870s, the first suspension bridge was inadequate to carry the increasing traffic between the west and east sides of the river so Thomas Griffith was again hired to build a larger, stronger suspension bridge. In 1876 Griffith finished a stone towered bridge 675 feet long and 32 feet wide. The towers were 80 feet high and had H-shaped bases 55 feet long and 20 feet wide. The west side tower was immediately northwest of the first suspension bridge tower.

Large cast iron cable anchors were once again buried beneath the limestone. The cables were bent through large stone housings intermediate to the towers and the anchors. This bridge also soon became inadequate and was replaced in 1890 by the steel arch bridge after only 14 years of use.

Extensive remains of the second suspension bridge were encountered during archaeological explorations in 1983, 1985, and 1988.

References: Bromley (1890:174-177); Minneapolis Sunday Times (4/21/01); Atwater (1893:349-351); Warner et al. (1881:369-370); Hudson (1907:39); Minneapolis Board of Trade Annual Report (1876:19); Mississippi Valley Lumberman (9/14/76, 10/27/76); NW Miller (12/29/76); Tordoff (1984); Tordoff and Clouse (1985).

    IB-5. Hennepin Avenue Steel Arch Bridge (1889 - 1990)

In the mid-1800s, Andrew Rinker, the Minneapolis city engineer, with the help of F. W. Cappelen designed a two-span steel arch bridge for Hennepin Avenue. A plan for a single arch bridge by K.E. Hilgard was rejected. Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh finished the abutments, central pier, and south half of the bridge in 1889. The north half of the bridge was finished in 1891 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio. The two arched spans were 280 feet each with a 56 foot roadway and 12 foot sidewalks. Two streetcar tracks occupied the outside traffic lanes. The wooden deck was replaced with an open-mesh steel deck in 1954.

The north half of the steel arch bridge was torn down in 1988 for the construction of the current suspension bridge. The south half was torn down in 1989. Parts of the sandstone abutments for the steel arch bridge have been incorporated into the new bridge abutments. The footings of the mid-channel pier are also still in place.

References: Atwater (1893:351); Hilgard (1886); Westbrook (1983:22).

    IB-6. Hennepin Avenue East Channel Bridges (1853-1869/1878-1973)

In the early days of St. Anthony, pedestrian access to Nicollet Island over the east channel was by walking across mill pond logs in the summer and across the ice in the winter. In 1853 a wooden beam span bridge supported by pilings was built at Bay Street (now East Hennepin Avenue). In late 1869, a wooden truss bridge was built over the east channel to replace the wooden beam span bridge at Hennepin Avenue. The new bridge was a Warren through-truss supported by three masonry piers (Figure 48). It was torn down in 1878 for the construction of a stone arch bridge.

In 1878, a stone arch bridge was built over the east channel to Nicollet Island. It was built by George McMullen and had five arches. It was torn down in 1973 for the construction of the current steel and concrete bridge.

Some pilings from the first wooden bridge and pier footings from the second bridge may remain buried in the river bottom mud. Portions of the abutments and piers of the stone arch bridge may remain.

References: Warner et al. (1881:370,503); St. Anthony Falls Democrat (1/28/1870); Andreas (1874); Mpls. Tribune (3/28/1973, 7/20/73).

    IB-7. Eastman Tunnel, South end of Nicollet Island to SE edge of Hennepin Island (1868-1869)

In September 1868 the Tunnel Company, under the direction of W.W. Eastman, began excavating a tailrace near the south end of Hennepin Island. By October 1869 the tunnel had reached the southern end of Nicollet Island. On October 4th, the north end of the tunnel collapsed and formed a large whirlpool. The hole was plugged with much difficulty, but a second collapse in the same vicinity on October 20th required the construction of a coffer dam (Figure 49).

High water in the spring of 1870 opened the hole again causing the tunnel mouth to collapse destroying a flour mill and a planing mill. Only a concerted effort over the next eight years by the Army Corps of Engineers saved the Falls. This work included several tunnel bulkheads, an interchannel dike, two spill dams, and an apron.

The collapsed mouth of the tunnel can be seen at the southeast end of Hennepin Island. Most of the old tunnel has been filled with concrete, although the government shafthouse access to the tunnel is still open.

References: Farquhar (1883); Kane (1987:71); Atwater (1893:533).

    IB-8. Island Power Tower, East channel under 3rd Avenue bridge (1879-1916)

A wooden tower with a large wheel at the top was built in the east channel in 1879 intermediate between the Island Power building on Nicollet Island and the wheel house at the west end of the second sawmill platform. The tower supported the long wire cable used to power the industries at the south end of Nicollet Island. It was torn down in 1916 for the construction of the 3rd Avenue bridge. The foundation may appear as a small island during periods of low water.

References: Hopkins (1885); Foote (1892).

    IB-9. Farnham and Lovejoy Dam, along west side of upper Hennepin Island (1856-1897)

In 1856 a wooden wing wall was built in the main channel near the west side of Hennepin Island to channel water to the Rogers, Stimpson, and Kent sash, door, and blind factory. The dam was expanded when it became the property of Farnham and Lovejoy in the early 1860s and was used to provide water power for their sawmill. The dam was purchased by the St. Anthony Falls Water Power Company in 1887 and was removed for the construction of Wasteway #1 in 1897.

References: Kane (1987:54); SAF Waterpower Company (1869); Cook (1872); Greenleaf (1887).

    IB-10. 10th Ave. S./Lower Bridge, main channel from 10th Ave. S. to 6th Ave. SE (1874-1942)

In 1874 the King Bridge Company of Topeka, Kansas built an iron under-truss bridge across the Mississippi River linking 10th Avenue S. on the west and 6th Avenue SE on the east. It was originally known as the Lower Bridge, and later as the 10th Avenue Bridge. It was torn down in early 1943. One masonry pier remains in the river near the east bank and the approaches on both banks.

References: Warner et al. (1881:370); Atwater (1893:352); Bromley (1890:50); Mpls. Daily Times 1/8/43.

    IB-11. 1st Lower Dam, main channel from just below foot of 10th Ave. S. to foot of 8th Ave. SE (1897-1950)

In 1895 the Pillsbury-Washburn Company began construction of a dam and hydroelectric plant below St. Anthony Falls. When it was finished in 1897, the dam was 1,085 feet long and 14-16 feet high. The main structure was built of limestone quarried just east of the dam and it was faced with St. Cloud granite. The dam was seven feet wide at its top and 18 feet wide at its base. A spillway at the east end fed water into the Lower Hydro Station. Most of the dam was removed in the early 1950s for the construction of the Lower Lock and Dam, but foundations survive below the normal pool level and one small portion is still intact at the far eastern end. When the Lower Hydrostation collapsed in 1987, the pool between the two dams was drawn down and the foundations of the first Lower Dam were exposed.

References: Gjerde (1981:261-273;250); Kane (1987:154).

    IB-12. Minneapolis Western RR Bridge, Main channel from 11th Ave. S. to 8th Ave. SE (1892-1952)

In 1892 the Minneapolis Western Railroad built an iron truss bridge diagonally across the Mississippi River from the foot of 11th Avenue S. to the foot of 8th Avenue SE. It was taken over by the Great Northern Railroad in 1928. The bridge was torn down in 1952. Abutments and pier foundations may still survive.

References: Atwater (1893:353).

    IB-13. 20th Avenue S. Bridge (1857-1859)

In 1857, the Minneapolis Bridge Company under the direction of Robert Jefferson built a wooden Howe truss bridge across the Mississippi River at the bend in the river near the University. During high water in 1859, logs jammed in the bridge pilings and the bridge washed out. Some pilings may still be buried in the alluvium, but most have probably been removed by channel dredging. Abutment remnants may survive.

References: Warner et al. (1881:370); Atwater (1893:43,351); Bromley (1890:125-126).

    IB-14. St. Paul and Northern Pacific RR Bridge (1887-1923)

In 1887, the St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railroad (later known as just the Northern Pacific) built a double track, deck truss bridge across the Mississippi River just below the University bend. It was designed by F.W. Cappelen and was one of the first steel bridges in the Northwest. In order to re-route the Northern Pacific outside of the University of Minnesota campus new abutments and piers were built several hundred feet upstream. The superstucture of the bridge was moved in 1921-23. Abutments and pier remants of the original location may survive.

References: Atwater (1893:353); Mpls. Journal 2/1921, Westbrook (1983:24).

    IB-15. 1st Washington Ave. Bridge (1884-1965)

In 1884, an iron truss bridge was built across the Mississippi River from Washington Avenue to the east side just below what were then the limits of the University of Minnesota. The bridge was strengthened in 1890 for streetcar use. The bridge was replaced in 1965 with the current structure slightly downstream. Abutments and pier remnants may survive.

References: Atwater (1893:352).

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

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