This weekend in the Twin Cities area it’s Art-a-Whirl. To me, the neatest thing about this event is not only the art on display, but the unique buildings it is displayed in. It takes place in an area called the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District – which is an old, industrial area of town now evolving into an artist’s and designers neighborhood.
Basically, these old Industrial Age buildings were built to last. And here in the Upper Midwest they are all over. Re-purposing these buildings, which started life as casket factories, breweries, and flour mills into cheap lofts and studio space has been one of the more creative re-habs I’ve seen. It’s working, drawing investment and people to an area that would otherwise be decaying.
The thing I love most about these old buildings is that you can feel their soul. People worked in these places for generations, and even though these places are built of stone and materials that any medieval fortress builder would have used, when restored they have more human scale and warmth somehow, especially compared to our modern glass and aluminum cubicle barns.
The building above is an old Pillsbury flour mill on the east bank of the Mississippi River. In it’s day, it was the largest flour mill in the world! Your grandmother probably baked bread with flour ground in this mill. (That’s kind of a neat idea!)
I hope this trend of rescuing, and not tearing down continues. The one advantage these types of buildings have is that they are as structurally sound as the day they were built, being made mostly of granite. So even though an interior renovation is no small expense, there isn’t any REALLY expensive foundation or structural work to bring things up to code like there can be with other older buildings made of less robust material.
I wonder if these long-gone architects and builders knew their work would be around over a century since they broke ground. And that people from places and circumstances they couldn’t even imagine back then would be working and creating in them, doing things totally different from the original specific use.
It’s a nice legacy to leave us, intended or not.