DOWN BY THE OLD FRUEN MILL - page 2 - by Sharon Parker
Photo by Dave Stack, Oct 2015.
Following is page 2 of 2 of an article published in the Minneapolis Observer Quarterly, Spring 2010 edition:
DOWN BY THE OLD FRUEN MILL
---------- By Sharon Parker
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the mills underwent many reforms to prevent a recurrence, including ventilation systems and other means to reduce the flowur dust that was so combustible. Toward this effort, Fruen invented an alarm system that would signal when the flow of grain between the mill stones was getting low enough to trigger the friction sparks that could ignite the flour dust. The city's milling industry soon rebounded and Minneapolis went on to lead the nation in flour production for the next 40 or so years.
---- Fruen must have known a good thing when he saw it, and before long he was climbing onto the grain-milling bandwagon. In 1890, he started experimenting with steam-rolling wheat to make a breakfast cereal, and once again adapted his factory by the creek to a new enterprise. In 1894 he founded the Fruen Cereal Company, which became the Fruen Milling Company. In 1911, the company expanded its product line to include agricultural feed for livestock. In 1912, the company erected the first concrete structure at the site. The former screw factory had become the Fruen Mill.
---- The company thrived for decades, and in 1954 celebrated its 60th year in business by adding a concrete strorage facility and new equipment. Fruen Milling Company wa then "on of the largest millers of diversified cereals and farm feeds in the Upper Midwest," reported a Minneapolis newspaper in an article commemorating the anniversary. "The lofty elevator lower is a landmark of the Glenwood area of Minneapolis." the article noted.
---- William H. Fruen's son Arthur B. Fruen took over the milling company when the elder Fruen retired in 1909. William died in 1917 and Arthur ran the company well into the 1960s, while also serving on the City Council from 1921 to 1945, and on several other civic organizations. Arthur died in September 1970, the same year that ConAgra bought Fruen Milling company; shortly thereafter Conagra abandoned the site. The buildings have stood empty for more than 35 years.
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---- Despite William Fruen's enterprising nature, he wasn't ruled by business. An avid trout fisherman, in the early 1880s he dug a pond near his home on Bassett's Creek in which to keep his catch fresh. In so doing, he uncovered a spring of pure water filtered through blue clay.
---- If Fruen had had his way, the good citizens of Minneapolis would all be drinkiing that spring water right from the tap. He petitioned City Hall three times for the franchise to supply the city's drinking water, but his price was too steep. Three different mayors turned him down.
---- In 1884, Fruen formed the Glenwood Company and began selling water in jugs. That same year, he took out a patent on a coin-operated machine for dispensing water by the glass. He manufactured the water-dispensing machines in the same factory in which he had first made screws, then water-wheel governors.
---- Meanwhile, Fruen's neighbor was bottling water from another spring on an adjoining property under the name Inglewood. The Two operations were soon merged, and in 1896, William H. Fruen, who took over as secretary of the Glenwood-Inglewood Company, with Inglewood founder A.E. Holbrook as president.
---- The Glenwood-Inglewood Company stayed in the Fruen family for 120 years, until it was bought in September 2004 by Deep Rock Water of Denver, Colorado. The Glenwood-Inglewood name has been retained, and they still bottle water from the same spring in North Minneapolis that Fruen uncovered in his quest for a trout pond.
* * * * * *
---- The Fruen imprint on North Minneapolis doesn't stop with water and mills, however. Fruen owned a great deal of land around Bassett's Creek - longtime resident Buzzy Bohn posted in January on the Minneapolis Issues list that she remembers sledding on "Fruen's Hill" at Fourth and Russell. This land eventually became part of the city's park system.
---- In 1930, Arthur B. Fruen donated 13.4 acres to the Minneapolis Park Board, which formed the beginning of Bassett's Creek Valley Park. Subsequently, WPA project workers installed stone walls to control erosion on the steep banks across the creek from the mill, deepened the creek, and constructed - or perhaps restored - a concrete dam where the mill dam had been. The Park Board purchased additional land for the park in stages, and it now covers more than 70 acres next to Theodore Wirth Park.
---- So, it's perhaps proper that Fruen's mill still overlooks the creek and the park he and his family made possible with their innovation and largesse over the years. And when a developer does somehow manage to navigate all the obstacles neccesary to rehabilitate Fruen's masterpiece, we'd hope that the resulting structure would make the old machinist proud.
------By Sharon Parker - The Minneapolis Observer - Spring 2010
(go to next image to read historical timeline of the mill)
Fruen MillConAgra MillBassett's CreekBassett Creek