Friday, December 3, 2010

1864 Seppman Windmill near Mankato, MN

With the recent moves towards "greener" energy in the last decade, one might think wind power is a relatively new concept for Minnesota. You'd be amazed though (as I was) to learn that a windmill constructed from 1862 to 1864 still stands in Minnesota! This hidden gem of Minnesota history is actually part of Minneopa State Park located 5 miles west of Mankato. We had no idea it was there until we visited the park in May of 2009 and ended up spending quite a bit of time there reading and learning why it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The mill is a Gristmill which at one time ground grain into flour by way of four gigantic wooden arm and sails- that measured about 70 feet in diameter. It was built by Louis Seppman, a German immigrant who modeled the mill after those in his native country. Though successful at first, the windmill seemed destined for ruin as it was damaged again and again by weather. In 1873 two of it's wooden arms were struck by lightning and needed to be replaced. In 1880 two more arms were carried away in a tornado. The mill limped along for 10 more years using only 2 arms until yet another storm in 1890 broke those off as well. There were very good historical markers on the site which told this whole story and more. According to the markers, extensive structural damage, together with competition from water and steam powered mills and the invention of the "roller process" made this windmill unprofitable to operate. I never produced flour again and closed in 1890. It was quite amazing to see this massive stone structure still standing nearly 120 years later. Also on the grounds, down the hillside was a Granary building that was almost completely rebuilt during renovation in the 1970's. If you have the chance to visit, Minneopa State Park is one of the best State Parks I've been to, and the Seppman Mill is icing on the cake. Here is a good article I ran across regarding this long abandoned stone windmill

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Old Farm Building near New Germany, MN

Unlike my other Blog, the photos and locations I post here are very much not in sequential order. I snapped a pic of this building back in April of this year en route to New Germany from Highway 212 near Norwood-Young America. I've driven past it for a few years now on our way to relatives in the area but had never grabbed a picture of it until recently. It's a large building not in the familiar shape of a barn which makes me think it's either something completely different or maybe it's just that much older. Either way it's a neat old building with an ornate cupola on top with it's own four-sided roof. Couldn't say exactly where this building is but my best guess is on County Road 33 somewhere south of New Germany.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Abandoned Schoolhouse 1911 Louisburg, MN

OK, so I almost abandoned this blog itself -but a couple of new followers have inspired me to get my butt back in gear. I have a whole slew of new photos and locations taken this year that I'll try to publish soon. This post features one of the best abandoned building's I've come across to date, due equally to it's size and remote location. In April of this year we took a trip to Ortonville, Minnesota. It was fun to head straight west for a change and we saw some great sights along the way but we were totally unaware of the multitude of small (small) towns in this area. I swear we put on an extra 100 miles exploring flooded back-country roads and we didn't even get to some of the towns on the map. At some point we found ourselves in a town called Louisburg which boasted a population of 26 at the 2000 Census. This town is literally surrounded in all directions by miles and miles of farm fields. Upon entering the town on County Rd. 67 we were awestruck with this massive square, red brick Public School with tall windows and bell tower. We stopped right in our tracks to get out and take pics of this place. Despite many of it's windows being broken or boarded up, the brickwork itself was in great shape. The roof though tattered was still very much intact with even some ornamental woodwork at the peaks. As we walked along the also abandoned playground we could hear the inside full of cooing Pigeons -adding to the haunted feel of the place. Among the birds we heard unfamiliar, unrecognizable sounds that really freaked us out. At the front of the building was a cement portion with a date of 1911 which looked surprisingly new compared to the crumbling front steps. I got the idea that maybe the building had been maintained and well cared for sometime into the 1960's before finally being abandoned. That's just my guess so I'd love to hear from anyone familiar with this place!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Abandoned building Lester Prairie, MN

I'm really not sure what this building was but I can't help but think it was a school of some kind. It just has that size, shape and proximity to the street. Then again looking at the windows, it could have possibly been a senior home or apartment building. Regardless, this building has always caught my attention every time we visit my wife's relatives in Lester Prairie, MN. Apart from it's massive size and peeling red paint, the most interesting part of the building is it's elegant rooftop with various sized gables facing different directions. How I'd love to explore the upper portion of this building! I can understand why the first floor windows are boarded up but not sure why they skipped the second floor in favor of the very top. Maybe those windows were already broken out? If anyone has any information about this building I'd love to hear about it. I believe it's located on either Oak or Maple Street in Lester Prairie.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Berning's Mill St. Michael, MN

On a warm day in July 2009, we threw the kayaks in the back of the truck and drove up to the Crow River just northwest of Minneapolis. We had no idea the trouble we'd have in finding a place to put in. During our almost hour long search for easy river access, we came upon a neat little place called the Millside Tavern. Directly behind it's parking lot, we noticed an even cooler abandoned mill of some kind. But our quest today was kayaking and only after a successfull paddle up and down the Crow did we decide to come back to this spot. After scarfing down burgers 'n beer at the tavern, we cautiously explored the seemingly private area as it was just too enticing to pass up. The structure was intriguing with original red painted wood, corrugated metal additions and elevated structures supported by either wooden post or concrete barrel supports. Rusty remnants of original machinery poked out of the building here and there and many of the glass window panes had long been broken out. Towards the very back side, two towering grain bins seemed still ready for business. The whole area was just overtaken by green trees and brush, giving you the feeling that the place was shut down like a switch decades ago and forgotten ever since. As we walked around the footings, peering upwards at the broken windows, we both thought we heard noises coming from within and wondered if squatters were living inside. Though we were only steps from a populated restaurant, we actually felt spooked by this beautifuly abandoned place. After an extensive online search, I've come across two other references about Berning's Mill that are definitely worth a look. The first is a Picasa Web Album from Tundra Star Photography's photo gallery containing some of the most beautiful photos of early midwest farm and industry that I've ever seen. The second is a painting by artist Michele Pope Melina, depicting this local icon of St. Michael as it may have once appeared.