In Tradition of Deceit, Chloe visits a friend in Minneapolis to help with a proposal to turn a long-abandoned flour mill into a museum.
The mystery is set in 1983, when such discussions and plans were underway. The visionaries were ultimately successful, and the Minnesota Historical Society opened the Mill City Museum in 2003.
So…why did I choose to feature the Mill City Museum in the fifth Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites Mystery?
First, it tells a fascinating story. When the Washburn Mill was completed in 1874, it was the world’s largest flour mill. The production of a basic food item was industrialized for the first time in history.
That building was destroyed within a few years. When it was rebuilt, the new 1880 structure and milling process was the most technologically advanced in the world. Records suggest that the mill at peak capacity could produce enough flour to make 12 million loaves of bread a day. More mills were constructed nearby, and Minneapolis was known as “The Flour Milling Capital of the World” for about five decades.
Chances are good you can find personal connections to this story in your own kitchen. The Washburn company’s flour did so well at an early competition that it began packaging it under the name…Gold Medal.
The marketing department created Betty Crocker.
After several mergers, the company became a little entity known as…General Mills.
Second – Baking, baking, baking! I’ve been testing old recipes, and will share favorites in the coming months.
Third, the mill’s history in the 1980s was poignant and compelling. After closing in 1965, the mill was empty for years. It provided dubious shelter for many people with nowhere else to go. This let me explore some social issues of the time, and provided a unique setting for a murder mystery.
Finally, I loved exploring the Mill City Museum…and I think readers will too, whether within the pages of Tradition of Deceit (when the museum was still a dream) or on a field trip to see the real thing. The museum was created around the ruins of the Washburn A Mill (which was largely destroyed by fire in the 1990s).
and programming often includes first-person presentations.
In addition to traditional exhibits, the museum features a baking lab,
and a very cool Flour Tower Tour.
Interpreters also lead special behind-the-scenes tours on a regular basis.
I’ll be sharing lots more in future posts. In the meantime, you can learn more by visiting the Mill City Museum website. I also recommend Mill City: A Visual History of the Minneapolis Mill District published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Have fun exploring!