The concrete tower painted with a Nordic Ware sign near the St. Louis Park water tower is such a familiar site that most days I just drive by on Highway 100 without even thinking about it.
The first time I stopped to think about it I wondered what it had to do with Nordic Ware, the company that invented the bundt pan and was a pioneer in microwave cookware. I found out that the concrete tower actually has nothing to do with the company… except that it happpened to be on the site when Nordic Ware was founded in 1946 and it made a distinctive sign post.
The tower does have historic significance, however. It was the first reinforced concrete circular grain elevator in the United States, and possibly in the world. Erected in 1899-1900 to prove the theory that concrete could be used in elevator construction, the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator never held grain again after it was tested but served as a prototype for concrete terminal elevators throughout the country. The famous French architect LeCorbusier praised it as "the magnifcent First Fruits of the new age."
Still standing more than a century later, it now is a landmark along the busy Cedar Lake Regional Trail near the cloverleaf at Highway 100 and Highway 7… also firsts.
Cedar Lake Trail, a paved trail built on a former railroad bed which extends from downtown Minneapolis to Highway 100, was America's first bicycle freeway. And Highway 100 was America's first belt line freeway… with the Northwest's first highway cloverleaf at Highway 7, near the historic Peavey-Haglin grain elevator.
These are all things we now take so much for granted that it is good to be reminded how significant they were in their day. When Highway 100 was built in the 1930's people thought they were nuts to be building a highway out in the middle of nowhere. It was built coming out of the depression, employing a crew of up to 4,000 men. It was said 1,000 men did the work of one bulldozer. The area outlined in red is the site of restored Lilac Park, in the shadow of the Peavey-Haglin Experimental Concrete Grain Elevator along the Cedar Lake Regional Trail.
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