In 1881, the Pillsbury Milling Company built the largest grain mill in the
world on the east bank of the Falls of St. Anthony. A canal was dug under Main Street (extant) and water powered this mammoth
mill. Buffington was called in to design it. He had been itching to do this for some years, because he
thought buildings should be designed by Architects and not by Engineers. Most milling buildings on the East and West side of the
falls of St. Anthony had been designed by Engineers with not much thought to how these buildings might please the untrained eye.
These buildings were built to accommodate a process that was very hard on a building.
There was much moving of heavy machinery and much vibration built-in to the process, and the building had to be built to
withstand many years of this sort of abuse.
Buffington consulted with engineers familiar with the milling process when he designed the building, but he must not have
taken their advice too seriously. The Pillsbury "A" Mill was finished in 1881. In 1905, the building had to be shut down and
extensively rebuilt and reinforced because it was literally falling in on itself.
The "A" Mill Today
Notice the picture shows the top of the mill slumping in towards the middle of the building. That's no trick of light. That's
real. This building was in big trouble and to fix it, the top two floors inside had to be completely rebuilt. Shoring was added
to the front of the building on the lower floors to keep the limestone of the building from bulging any further. As you can see
in this picture, concrete and rebar reinforced buttresses were poured to help stabilize the building from the rear and to
reinforce the rear wall.
Concrete buttresses supporting the East wall of the "A" Mill.
Through all this, the mill still stands and still operates. It eventually will make a dandy milling museum. It's on the
National Historic Register and it is also a National Engineering Landmark. It's currently operated by the Archer Daniels
Midland Company and is used primarily as a bagging facility.