MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A history lesson at your fingertips. WCCO took a walk with a familiar face to see the new addition in one Minneapolis neighborhood allowing its past, to play out.

If there’s one thing that hasn’t left former anchor Mike Binkley in his retirement, it’s his curiosity. Only now he’s keeping it closer to home.

“In all my years of Finding Minnesota for WCCO now I’m just finding the North Loop and there are so many great stories right here in this neighborhood,” Binkley said. “This one has a real good story to it up here.”

Binkley pointed to a building labeled with a well-known brand, stocked on grocery store shelves for decades.

“People walk by this building and see Creamette up there as in pasta? Yeah, this is where they literally made pasta. It was invented in the North Loop,” he said.

Binkley is bringing some of that history back to life through stories all waiting to be told through a QR code.

“A lot of people know that Mars Incorporated is this Chicago company but Frank Mars was a Minnesota native and he had this fledgling candy company — the Maro bar, which he started in this building,” he said.

Eleven plaques are now up for passers-by to see. By spring, they’ll have about 25 up altogether.

The North Loop Neighborhood Association hoped to give a voice to the part of town often overlooked compared to Minneapolis’ milling district.

“This area played a huge part in the development of Minneapolis, the warehousing, manufacturing. By 1915, it was actually earning more money than the milling district was,” Binkley said.

As settlers headed west workers cranked out critical farm machinery from the old John Deere distribution center on Washington Avenue.

“A lot of people know this building now for Bar La Grassa, a great Italian restaurant they’ve been to, but 120 years ago this was the Deere and Weber building,” he said.

The once bustling blocks of industry went quiet in the 1960s, when these warehouses were all but abandoned.

“While tear-downs were happening in the Central Business district, this place was forgotten,” Binkley said.

The North Loop opted for a different approach years later: refurbishing what’s stood for more than a century.

“A lot of it is through online records, but a lot of it is through newspaper archives,” Binkley said.

Harnessing a news guys’ never-ending curiosity while satisfying anyone else’s through a simple barcode.

“Hopefully, they will get a new appreciation for the role that these buildings played in the development of Minneapolis, and it was huge,” Binkley said.

Mike Binkley is a volunteer board member on the North Loop Neighborhood Association. If you can’t do the walking tour yourself, you’ll find a link here.

Liz Collin

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