St. Anthony Historic Main Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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St. Anthony Main Street

Address: Main Street SE
Location of Site: On the East Bank of the Mississippi River, right next to the St. Anthony Falls
Neighborhood/s: Northeast Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Saint Anthony Falls Historic District, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Saint Anthony Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1840
Historic Function: Industrial site
Historic Function: Commercial district
Other Historic Function: Commercial district
Current Function: Neighborhood/community

Northeast Minneapolis, Saint Anthony Falls Historic District, Saint Anthony Falls Minneapolis Hennepin County

St. Anthony Main is the popular, historic street located on the northeast side of the Mississippi River, across from the Downtown Minneapolis area. One end of the street connects with the beginning of the historic Stone Arch Bridge, while the other end connects with Nicollet Island and the Nicollet Island Inn. The street’s location within such a historically rich area of Minneapolis, it’s popular restaurants, local movie theater, Segway Tour center, newly developed lofts and apartment buildings, urban greenspace, beautiful panoramic views of the Mississippi with the Minneapolis skyline behind it, and lively, unique, friendly, culturally rich atmosphere draws large amounts of tourists, college students, and local Minneapolis residents alike throughout the year.

Site Boundaries

Where Stone Arch Bridge begins on the east bank, down to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge containing the buildings immediately located on Main Street within these boundaries, the street itself, and the area between the street and the Mississippi


Site History

Saint Anthony Main was originally developed during the early establishment of the area that is known today as the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. This area was first discovered in the late 1600s by Father Louis Hennepin when he came across the falls, eventually giving them their name after his patron saint Anthony of Padua. The east bank of the river located right next to the falls was available for settlement in 1837 following a treaty established between the U.S. government and the Dakota Ojibway tribe, and thus began the birth of Minneapolis, the largest city in Minnesota, and one of the most well-known cities in the nation.

1849 brought the establishment of St. Anthony as a town located along the east bank of the Mississippi and the St. Anthony Falls. Mill developers soon took advantage of the power of the falls that had been harnessed through the placement of a dam, and by the 1860s there were sixteen mills, and various other businesses functioning within the area surrounding the falls, on both banks of the river. This also led to a huge population boom for the town of St. Anthony of 300 residents in 1848 to 3,000 residents in 1854. Also during 1854, local newspaper the St. Anthony Express, published a few extensive articles on Main Street itself, discussing how new shops and buildings were “springing up like mushrooms” overnight, exhibiting the rapid growth and development the street went through at this pivotal time.

The sawmills that previously lined the banks of the river in this area soon became flour mills, and the overall number of mills continued to grow as more businesses took advantage of the powerful river. By 1880 there were twenty-seven mills in operation in the area, making Minneapolis the largest, most powerful flour center in the country until 1930. Also around the early 1880s, a hydroelectric plant was built with the falls, the first one in the nation, and was used to light the mills and businesses on the banks of the river. This economically successful business district allowed for the creation of companies like General Mills, Cargill, and more that helped Minneapolis become the city that it is today.

Historic preservation of the area began to take shape as an idea in the early twentieth century when architects John Jager, C. B. Stravs, C. E. Edwins, and F. E. Halden created their “City Practical, City Beautiful” plan regarding the renovation of the riverfront, but it was never brought to life. In following years, two studies, ““Historic Preservation Feasibility Study, Nicollet Island and East Bank Urban Renewal Project,” and “Restoration and Preservation Research and Planning Study Saint Anthony Falls Historic District Located Within the Minneapolis Central Riverfront Area” discussed historic preservation methods for the area, and brought to light the history of the site to a larger, more general audience, including the surrounding community members. Ideas of how, and what, to preserve along Main Street sparked debate over the following years as more proposals were given and more people got involved, and eventually a desire for reusing and rehabilitating the existing, historic buildings took precedence over the initial desire to demolish them and start over.

In 1971 the St. Anthony Falls district was designated as both a local and a national historic district, increasing its significance, and St. Anthony Main began a period of renovation, revitalization, and rehabilitation. The district remained a vital part of the local community and developers took advantage of the historical, social, cultural, aesthetic, and location appeal of the block to transform the street into how it thrives today. Throughout the late 1900s and early 2000s, the Main Street underwent a series of transformations from industrial factories and warehouses to retail shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, a movie theater, new artist lofts and condos, and the operation center for Segway tours of the city. St. Anthony Main is also located right next to the Hennepin Island Hydroelectric Plant and Water Power Park that was built in 2007. It is also located right at one of the ends of Stone Arch Bridge, an historic, extremely popular bridge that connects the Northeast area of the river with downtown Minneapolis. After its designation as a National Historic Engineering Landmark and its following restoration in 1980, the bridge reopened, restricting traffic to walking, biking, running, Segway-ing, etc, and providing visitors with beautiful views of the St. Anthony Falls. Today, Main Street is home to some of the oldest industrial buildings in the city, and stands as a symbol of the flour milling industry that once thrived there and made Minneapolis what it is today. It is the road where history meets the present, creating an interesting balance and tells a story that all modern-day visitors become a part of.

Preceeded by

While looking at the development of St. Anthony Main Street as a whole, it is important to look individually at the unique history of each of the buildings that make up and define the historic street.

Pracna on Main

Pracna on Main, as it is known today, serves as a dining restaurant and bar located in the center of St. Anthony Main, right next to the locally popular St. Anthony Main Theater. The restaurant first opened by owner Frank Pracna in 1890 as a saloon, after his original saloon was destroyed in a fire a year earlier, and was housed in the large three-story building Pracna helped design and construct. Pracna hired architect Carl F. Struck to help design the new building to replace the destroyed original. The new building was to be built out of red brick in the Queen Anne Commercial style with horizontal stone bands, brick corbels, and an intricate metal cornice along the top. Pracna and his family lived on the top floors of the building, and ran the saloon that quickly gained popularity with employees and factory workers of the falls and the area surrounding them. The successful saloon soon experienced a tough downfall with the beginning of Prohibition in 1919, and even after the end of Prohibition, could not return to the popular, lively saloon that it once was. In the years that followed, the building housed a machine shop, mattress store, and heating company, none of which did very well financially and in turn did not last long. Finally, in 1968, after undergoing heavy restoration, the space was purchased by architect Peter Nelson Hall who reopened it as a restaurant and bar a few years later during the transformation and revival of the riverfront area. The restaurant offers its diners gorgeous views of the Mississippi and downtown skyline, and still contains its original brick walls, entryway arches, and stained glass windows. The restaurant recently underwent a second round of renovations last year, and reopened a few months ago, with new outdoor seating space, newly laid out indoor dining space, and a slightly altered menu. The restaurant also has a new partnership with its next-door-neighbor, the St. Anthony Main Theater, in which people are able to bring food and drinks that they purchased at Pracna, to the theater with them while they watch a movie, alluding to the unified relationship of the buildings along Main Street.

Pillsbury A-Mill (A-Mill Artist Lofts)

The Pillsbury A-Mill, known today as the newly completed A-Mill Artist Lofts, was originally envisioned by Charles Alfred Pillsbury, a leading businessmen of his time, who wanted to create an industrial factory building that was also architecturally beautiful, elegant, and aesthetically pleasing, which was a new, original concept at the time. He enlisted the help of well-known Minneapolis architect LeRoy S. Buffington to help him design the extravagant mill, which, half a million dollars and seven floors later, was finally built and completed in 1881, and functioned as the largest flourmill in the world for the next forty years, producing four thousand barrels of flour a day. Romanesque arches, segmented-arch windows, and the recognizable “A” on the front of the building made completely out of white marble and standing ten feet tall, all helped to set Pillsbury A-Mill apart, architecturally, from other mills of its time. In 1905 the mill experienced some rebuilding as a result of inadequate design and constant vibrations caused by the milling machinery, but throughout its entire lifetime it never fell victim to explosions or fires, a rarity for mills at the time, and still contains its original wood framework today. The mill was in service from the time of its construction until 2003, making it the last standing, functioning mill in the St. Anthony Falls District. In 1966 Pillsbury A-Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places and has also been designated a National Historic Landmark, making it one of three structures located in Minneapolis designated as a National Historic Landmark.

After the mill ceased functionality, developer Kit Richardson proposed the project of restoring the mill into four towers of condos and lofts. Today, the Pillsbury A-Mill is home to the newly construct A-Mill Artist Lofts, lofts designed for full-time practicing artists. The lofts offer residents free, shared work and studio spaces to be used for projects and work, including a gallery, performance and dance centers, and various studio workspaces. The A-Mill Artist Lofts are also LEED Certified with a rainwater management system of using roof water for irrigation, hydrothermal system that harnesses the flow of the Mississippi to heat and cool rooms and all LED lighting. Part of the Mississippi actually flowed through the building providing power to the mill, and still flows under the building today.

Upton Block (Aster Cafe)

Today, Aster Café is a popular brunch and dinner spot whose large outdoor seating area frames a breathtaking view of the Mississippi, the Merriam Street Bridge and the Minneapolis skyline in the distance. Before Aster Café was the quaint little restaurant it is today, it served as a hardware store in the mid-1800s owned by the Upton Brothers, Rufus P. Upton and Moses P. Upton, before they moved their business to the other side of the river. The Upton Brothers enlisted Benjamin O. Cutter, a local architect and carpenter to design the building intended to hold their hardware company, with offices above. The brothers chose to use local materials, such as Minneapolis brick, to create their structure, and the building is the oldest standing brick building in Minneapolis today. After acting as a retail space and even a headquarters space for newspaper company, the Minnesota Republican, for several years, in 1879 the Union Iron Works bought the buildings and used it as a warehouse for creating the machinery for neighboring mills until 1930. This change from retail to manufacturing functionality was representative of the overall transformation of Main Street that was happening at this time, from a commercial center to an industrial area. The building was a mostly abandoned, empty warehouse until the renovation and revitalization of St. Anthony Main in 1985 when it was purchased by the owners of St. Anthony Main and converted into the café that, for the most part, is seen today.

Salisbury and Satterlee Buildings (Tugg's Tavern and Vic's)

Today Tuggs and Vics, located next to Aster, are also two popular restaurants that offer unique indoor, and spacious outdoor deck seating, and even sort of contrast each other. Tugg’s, with its casual, laid back atmosphere and “bar-food” inspired menu, differs from the more upscale, expensive Vic’s, with a more “wine-food” inspired menu. Before these establishments drew customers with their distinctive food and drinks, they were acting as a retail and factory space for a box spring and mattress manufacturing business owned by Salisbury and Satterlee. They built the five story red brick building in 1892, and added a two-story addition shortly after in 1909. Jefferson Company, the owners of St. Anthony Main, purchased the buildings after they had gone out of use and renovated them to become the restaurants and office buildings that they are today.

Martin-Morrison Blocks

The Martin Morrison Blocks were first constructed in 1858 by Captain John Martin. Martin wanted to create a beautiful limestone building located next to the Upton Block (or today Aster Café) complete with arched windows and doors. Shortly after its constructed, Francis Morrison, who owned the property right next to Martin’s, liked Martin’s building so much that he decided to construct a building just like his. Morrison’s lot was smaller than Martin’s though, resulting in available space for only three windows across, instead of the four that Martin’s had. The buildings were made up of cast-iron Corinthian columns and limestone arches. The bottom levels served as retail spaces, while the upper floors consisted of offices for doctors, dentists, and lawyers. In later years, the buildings became home to the Minnesota Republican and the Saint Anthony Falls Weekly Express newspapers. In 1885 Union Iron Works, also owners of the Upton Block at the time, purchased the Martin-Morrison Blocks and transformed the space into a factory, adding a two-story addition and removing the cast-iron columns and cornices shortly after. After the buildings were abandoned for many years, in 1985 they were chosen for a Historic Preservation Tax Credit project and were restored to the original design of the building, and today it is the home of some commercial enterprises.

St. Anthony Main Theater

Saint Anthony Main Theater is a popular, locally based movie theater, consisting of five auditoriums, located on Saint Anthony Main Street, and is home to the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. It was constructed in 1983 by Engler Theaters of Minnesota during the renovation of Main Street that transformed the historic factories and warehouses into a small shopping and entertainment center on the Mississippi riverfront. Before the movie theater could even open, however, Engler Theaters went bankrupt, so the company created the theater using equipment taken from some of their other locations. Another company then purchased the theater, opened it to the public in 1984, and owned it until 1998. Reading Entertainment came in as the new owner, with plans to redesign the space into a Angelika Film Center, a creative art center based around cinema and independent films, but the plans were never executed. In 2003 local cinema archivist Bill Carter and Minneapolis developer John Rimarcik, who had recently help to redevelop St. Anthony Main, bought the theater and own it to this day. The movie theater recently underwent more renovations to include improved digital projection and sound, new seats, added aisle space, refurbished décor and concession stand, and more improvements, all meant to recreate the look and atmosphere of the theater as it was when it first opened. Today, the St. Anthony Main movie theater feeds off of and is affected by the local culture and social life of the surrounding communities. It hosts local creative events, consistently shows independent films, and supports the local art community. The small, independent theater plays a vital role in attracting people to Main Street and providing an interesting, unique entertainment aspect to the area that encourages the community’s engagement with the arts.


Overall, St. Anthony Main creates a physical, metaphorical, cultural, and historical bridge where new meets the old, where an on-going story has been in action since the birth of Minneapolis hundreds of years ago, and continues to expand and grow as time passes, new experiences are had here, and changes are made, while always keeping the original in mind. The once bustling, commercial, industrial, and economically thriving atmosphere takes on a new form today of a bustling and thriving social, commercial, and entertainment center, with regard to and appreciation of the powerful Mississippi that allowed for the development of this street in the first place, and continues to draw people to this area today. The once industrial, flour mill haven, has in turn transformed into a haven for local residents and tourists alike to experience the natural environment, beauty, and entertainment that the Mississippi, and this street in general, has to offer.

Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony1.JPG‎ Pillsbury A-Mill (A-Mill Artist Lofts) Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony2.JPG Pillsbury A-Mill Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony3.JPG‎ Salisbury and Satterlee Buildings Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony4.JPG Pracna Outdoor Seating and St. Anthony Main Theater Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony5.JPG‎ View of Mississippi and skyline from Main Street Image:JuliaKrummel15--JuliaKrummel-St.Anthony6.JPG Salisbury and Satterlee Block (Tugg's Tavern) Image:JuliaKrummel15--StAnthony7.JPG Salisbury and Satterlee Block (Vic's) Image:JuliaKrummel15--StAnthony8.JPG Part of Main Street Image:JuliaKrummel15--StAnthony9.JPG‎ Martin Morrison Block and Aster Cafe Image:JuliaKrummel15--StAnthony10.JPG Green space near Stone Arch Bridge Image:JuliaKrummel15--StAnthony11.JPG‎ View of Mississippi and skyline from Main Street

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64px}px This place is part of
the ARCH5670 Class Project

65}px This place is part of the
Saint Anthony Falls Historic District

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