Monday, November 16, 2009

Ramsey Mill Ruins Hastings, MN

We discovered this place on a winter trip to Hastings in March of 2008. Really purely by accident as we had no idea it even existed when we decided to hike along the Vermillion River. There were one or two signs with some good historical info as well as older photos of this huge old flour mill. After learning just how old it was -built in 1856 and destroyed in 1894- we were instantly fascinated and trucked down the snowy hillside. It's most unique aspect was immediately evident upon our first glance of the structure. It's remnants are purely massive, towering pillars completely free-standing from one another save for maybe 3 or 4 places where the quarried limestone still clung to horizontal timbers. These short spans gave the only indication of the original structure's appearance with evenly spaced windows at each level. It was as if all the window openings on all four sides collapsed straight downwards from the top, leaving gaping slices in each wall. The effect resembles ancient ruins of Rome or Egypt and is pretty awe inspiring. We were both scared to even touch the remaining walls for fear they might topple down. On one outer wall I noticed the remainder of a steel rod that was likely used as a stabilizer between opposite walls. Funny that even without this, the remaining pillars, except for what must have been the front of the building, are all still standing. They realy must have built things good in those days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

1894 Rock Island Swing Bridge

Though my fascination with abandoned things began long before, I wanted to post some photos of a place that most recently renewed my interest in a big way. In spring of 2007, based on a tip from a coworker, we decided to go take a peek at this old bridge over the Mississippi in Inver Grove Heights. Though not particularly "mysterious" like abandoned buildings can be, this bridge and it's connected railroad line were there very definition of "abandoned." You could literally feel both history and time here spelled out plain as day in the rusted steel, wheathered wood and overgrown tracks. In addition, there were so many other interesting things about this bridge than just it's age. In it's rich history the bridge carried the Rock Island Railroad on top, cars underneath, had a swing-span that opened to let barges through, was crossed by John Dillinger after a gun battle, was a toll bridge, then a free bridge, then a toll bridge again owned by a private citizen. If you're lucky enough not stumble upon a place like this on your own, and/or be the only persons there at the time, it definitely helps lend to the overall feeling of wonderment about the place. Such was the case on this day in April and it is truly one of the best abandoned places I'll remember. Having made such a memorable impression on me, it's very fitting that this place has since been in the news ever since with stories of its impending fate. Just this spring, most of the structure was demolished, including the entire swing span as well as the eastern and western side entrances thus making it impossible to access what remains of the bridge out in the middle of the river. This certainly adds fuel to whatever motivation I already have for stopping and exploring abandoned places. It sounds like a dorky reason to pull over on the highway or drive out of your way but you never know if that place will still be there the next time you drive by. Read more about this unique -and now gone- bridge at