The Mississippi Riverfront is the oldest part of Minneapolis. People settled in the area because of the river, which provided energy and transportation that allowed the city to grow.
The city had its origins in a settlement near the only waterfall on the Mississippi River --– St. Anthony Falls -- which was named for the patron saint of Father Louis Hennepin, who came to the area in the late 1600s.
Long before his time, the falls were considered sacred by the Dakota and Ojibwe peoples, who once populated the riverfront. As Europeans moved into the area, it was alternately controlled by the French and the Spanish from the 1600s until 1803, when it became part of the United States.
By the 1850s, the falls had been harnessed as a source of power for the lumber and flour milling industries, and the riverfront settlement transformed into a city that led the world in flour production for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1882.
Later, changes in transportation and industry led to a move away from the river, and as business departed, the area declined.
Today, the Minneapolis Riverfront has been revitalized. It's a place where visitors enjoy sightseeing, walking and biking trails, dining, live music and theater. Many historic buildings have been developed for new uses, including the Washburn A Mill, which is now the framework of the Mill City Museum.
First Bridge Across the Mississippi
Minneapolis has more bridges across the Mississippi River than any other community, including suspension, stone arch, steel truss, and concrete-arch bridges. It's also the site of the first bridge across the Mississippi.
On January 23, 1855 a suspension bridge opened in Minneapolis from Nicollet Island to what is now the downtown side of the Mississippi at Hennepin Avenue. Combined with an 1853 bridge from Nicollet Island to the other side of the river, this suspension bridge completed the very first permanent span anywhere along the Mississippi River.
Learn more about Minneapolis' Historic Bridges
View historic photos of...
- The first Hennepin Avenue Suspension Bridge
- The Stone Arch Bridge