Lunchtime Tourist

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September 29, 2003 // UPDATED 11:05 am - April 30, 2007
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

A guide to art, architecture and cultural curiosities

Flour Exchange Building 310 4th Ave. S. Now that the Mill City Museum has opened to packed crowds, we all know about the history of the milling capital of the world. (If you don't know, head over to 704 S. 2nd St. right now and catch up.)

By the 1880s, the city of Minneapolis had become the largest flour producer in the world. Both General Mills and Pillsbury got their start wedged between 20 other mills crowding the riverfront. Vast quantities of our white gold were bought and sold on the floor of the Flour Exchange. Now only a memory, there used to be a trading floor right behind the elevators on the building's first floor. And just like the Minneapolis Grain Exchange across the street, traders shouted indecipherable codes with frantically waving arms and traded flour ground from Midwestern hard spring wheat.

Designed by Minneapolis' own architectural duo Long and Kees (who also designed the Lumber Exchange, 10 S. 5th St., and the Masonic Temple that is now the Hennepin Center for the Arts, 528 Hennepin Ave. S.), the Flour Exchange was a revolutionary building style for turn-of-the-century Minneapolis.

Instead of having heavy stone exterior walls with internal wood supports, like the four-years-older City Hall, 350 S. 5th St., the Flour Exchange arrived on our skyline as a steel frame "skyscraper." Called a "Chicago Style" building, it had a well-defined base and top (now removed) with large windows that created an even, repeating pattern. Structural steel construction allowed for large expanses of glass and much taller buildings. Only four floors of the 11-story building were built in 1893 before financial problems halted construction. The remaining floors were completed in 1909 according to original plans.

Since architectural ornament was going out of fashion, most of the building's detail was restricted to the grand two-story entrance. Curving acanthus leaves are intertwined with scrolls and geometric patterns on a series of concentric arches. As the first steel and concrete high-rise in Minneapolis, the Flour Exchange was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

LUNCH TIP: Harry's restaurant serves classic corned beef sandwiches in a cozy environment (corner of South 3rd Street and South 4th Avenue.

Do you know of a lunchtime destination? Send your tips to thelunchtimetourist@