Pillsbury A-Mill

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Pillsbury A-Mill
Pillsbury A Mill.jpg
The mill in 2005, a hydroelectric station in the foreground
Location116 3rd Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN
Coordinates44°59′2.18″N 93°15′9.59″W / 44.9839389°N 93.2526639°W / 44.9839389; -93.2526639Coordinates: 44°59′2.18″N 93°15′9.59″W / 44.9839389°N 93.2526639°W / 44.9839389; -93.2526639
ArchitectLeroy Buffington
Part ofSaint Anthony Falls Historic District (#71000438)
NRHP reference #66000402[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 13, 1966
Designated NHLNovember 13, 1966
Designated CPMarch 11, 1971

The Pillsbury A-Mill, situated along Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, held the title of largest flour mill in the world for 40 years.[2][3] Completed in 1881, it was owned by Pillsbury and operated two of the most powerful direct-drive waterwheels ever built, each generating 1,200 horsepower (895 kW). The mill still stands today on the east side of the Mississippi River and has been converted into resident artist lofts.[4]


Pillsbury at the turn of the 20th century

In 1879, after five years of secret planning, Charles Alfred Pillsbury announced to the public that he would build the largest and most advanced mill the world had ever seen. He had traveled to mills all over the world, searching for the best technique for milling flour on a large scale. Despite the convention of the time, Pillsbury decided that he wanted his new mill to be designed by an architect in order to make the building visually appealing. Architect LeRoy S. Buffington, with the loose advice of several engineers, carried out the design. Construction started in 1880 and was finished in 1881 under a contractor named George McMullen. The mill was built to put out 5,000 barrels a day when at a time when a 500-barrel mill was considered large. For some years the mill was not run at its intended capacity. Part of the building was used as a warehouse and other purposes.

The front of the mill in 2010, showing the bows in the wall and the reinforcements
Reinforcements at the back of the mill, in 2003

Due to vibrations of milling machines and poor design, in 1905 the mill was fortified and certain sections were rebuilt. To this day, the walls bow inward 22 inches (560 mm) on the top. Unlike other similarly large mills in the area, most notably the Washburn A Mill, the Pillsbury A Mill never exploded or caught fire. As a result, it still contains its original wood frame.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and is a National Historic Landmark.

On the outside, the Pillsbury A-Mill is a rectangular structure 175 feet (53 m) by 115 feet (35 m). The foundations are of Platteville limestone. The exterior wall thickness varies from 8'-0" (2.4 m) thick at the basement to 2'-0" (0.6 m) thick at the top of the building. The outside walls are of load bearing stone with heavy timber framing on the interior. (Timber was added after the completion of the building.) There are six chimneys on the flat, gravel roof of the building.

When it was still in use, the seven floors and the basement of the mill all had specific purposes. The basement held a transformer vault, water inlets, and an electrical room. On the first floor there was a small floor-mounted sifter, a larger ceiling-hung sifter, and a pressure tank. On the second floor there were conveyor belts and a staff lunchroom. The third floor contained more belts and bins and the fourth floor held a dust collector, centrifugal machine, gyration shifter, grinder, scale, and a packing bin. The fifth floor held a sifter, separator, and a centrifugal machine. The sixth floor held flour bins and the seventh floor was an electrical room.

Pillsbury in 2006

Renovation to Artists Lofts[edit]

In 2003, production in the mill ceased and the mill lay empty. The building was then acquired by local developer Shafer Richardson. In 2006 they launched plans to convert and preserve the A-Mill complex as the rebranded East Bank Mills,[5] a loft-style apartment complex containing 759 to 1,095 housing units.[6] This re-development plan fell through due to financial matters.[7]

In 2011, the National Trust for Historic Preservation included the mill on its list of the 11 Most Endangered Places.[8]

In 2013, a Plymouth, Minnesota based developer, Dominium, gained approval for a $100 million renovations plan to transform the A-Mill into 251 affordable live/work artist lofts. The exterior of the mill remained intact to preserve the historical architecture of the building, such as the silos. However, major changes were made to the interior of the mill and the courtyard that connect the multiple buildings.[9] The overall project ended up costing $175 million, and incorporated a hydro-electric turbine turned by river water running through the tunnel that served the original milling equipment.[10] Due to the significant investment made in sustainable features such as the hydrothermal system using river water, and the hydro-electric turbine providing 75% of the building's energy needs, the project achieved LEED Gold Certification in 2017.[11]

A projected visual of the A-Mill Artist Lofts

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. ^ Pennefeather, Shannon M. (2003). Mill City: A Visual History of the Minneapolis Mill District. St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society.
  3. ^ Stephen Lissandrello (August 7, 1975), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Pillsbury A Mill, National Park Service and Accompanying 5 images, including photos from early 1900s to 1975. (830 KB)
  4. ^ http://www.a-millartistlofts.com
  5. ^ East Bank Mills website
  6. ^ City of Minneapolis,Pillsbury A Mill Complex Project,http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/PLANNING/a-mill.asp
  7. ^ http://riverlife.umn.edu/2011/04/08/bittersweet_news_for_pillsbury_a_mill_planning/
  8. ^ "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places 2011: Pillsbury A Mill". Retrieved 2011-07-23.
  9. ^ http://www.multihousingnews.com/cities/minneapolis-cities/dominium-closes-in-on-approval-for-pillsbury-a-mill-conversion/1004069521.html
  10. ^ http://www.thelinemedia.com/devnews/amillartistlofts02112015.aspx
  11. ^ https://www.usgbc.org/projects/amill-artist-lofts

Historic American Buildings Survey, University of Minnesota School of Architecture (1934–1989). "HABS MINN,27-MINAP,3-". Retrieved 2007-05-03.

External links[edit]