Stone Arch Bridge, St. Anthony Falls, Minneapolis

Today and the next two days I’m going to be looking at the area around the St. Anthony Falls, which is the heart of where the city of Minneapolis grew up, and where its industry harnessed the power of the Mississippi River (in fact, the city almost was named St. Anthony).

As happened throughout America, the huge flour mills and other factories which once lined the river were abandoned, some fell into ruins, and the whole area fell into abandonment.

But Minneapolis did not let it remain that way; it embarked in what I think it easily the most successful revitalization of a river through an urban core that I have ever visited.

And it is still a functional river; these locks below lower small boats past the falls.

But the architects and planners took a landmark, the Stone Arch Bridge, and made it a centerpiece of a revitalized park. Most importantly, and we’ll see this tomorrow, there is a large residential component near the park. And that is what is so important! Huge numbers of people actually live near Minneapolis’s riverfront.

Perhaps it is obviously from the width of the bridge, but it would have never worked well as an automobile bridge, but it is instead turned over to bicyclists and pedestrians. And most importantly, it is nice and clear to everyone where they are supposed to walk and bike!

I love how the historic structures flow so seamlessly with the new paths.

And looks how the ruins of the intact bridge and new park features work together; perhaps the only other place where I’ve seen such harmony between old and new is a city such as Rome. (Ironically, of course, Rome’s interaction with the Tiber River is largely a failure.)

The ruins of a steel structure make the visitor wonder what was once here in the past.

The views are stunning, as well.

Obviously, comparisons with St. Louis’s riverfront cannot be exact, as the Mississippi River down south is a much larger river, and is open to barge traffic. But we can still learn from other cities.

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