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.