The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minneapolis Parks Foundation are hosting a virtual grand opening on May 20 for Water Works at Mill Ruins Park. This park along the Mississippi River balances new urban use and park development with historic preservation. To coincide with the grand opening, 106 Group has released a short film providing historical background on the Water Works project and this special place. 106 Group led the cultural heritage planning for this project that included archaeology, documentation of community histories, and interpretation. Hidden stories of Native American and African American communities uncovered during the planning stages influenced the design and programming elements for this urban revitalization project.
Water Works is in the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. St. Anthony Falls is the only major natural waterfall on the upper Mississippi River. Owámniyomni, the Dakota name for St. Anthony Falls, means turbulent water, whirlpool, or eddy. The falls were—and remain—a place of importance to Native peoples, including the Dakota, Ojibwe, and Ho Chunk. St. Anthony Falls also facilitated the birth and development of Minneapolis’ first industry, milling, which began at the falls in the 1820s.
The Water Works design includes the construction of a park pavilion and landscaped open space within and around the ruins of three mills. In the late 1960s, the Fuji Ya restaurant, the first Japanese restaurant in Minnesota, was constructed on top of and around the ruins. Fuji Ya was one of the first new buildings constructed in what was then an abandoned industrial area of Minneapolis. The layers of history reveal a complex story of this place.
In support of the project, 106 Group completed a social and labor history investigation and research in collaboration with Native American and African American community historians and thought leaders. Many interviewees emphasized the importance of communities being able to tell their own stories. They suggested that Water Works be designed to welcome storytelling, for example, through the design of a naturalistic amphitheater.
One of the most visible outcomes of these cultural heritage planning conversations is Owamni, the new restaurant by The Sioux Chef, opening this Spring. The Sioux Chef, led by Sean Sherman, conceived and will manage the dine-in and take-out restaurant, as well as programming in the Water Works Park Pavilion. The Sioux Chef will create events and educational opportunities to elevate Indigenous voices as part of its larger mission to promote Native American cultures, honor plants and natural resources, and foster a vibrant Indigenous food movement.
Watch 106 Group’s short film on Water Works: https://106group.com/culture-community-welcome-to-water-works/
We hope to see you at the virtual grand opening. Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/virtual-grand-opening-water-works-at-mill-ruins-park-tickets-153251602669
About 106 Group
106 Group is a woman-owned, nationally recognized consulting company. We provide services in Cultural Heritage Planning, Cultural Resource Management, and Interpretation and Exhibit Design. Our award-winning team includes archaeologists, historians, planners, and designers. Built on the belief that communities are strongest when they evolve with a rooted sense of their own authentic heritage, we have developed innovative solutions to document resources and uncover powerful stories for nearly 30 years.