From Gunflints to Moon Rocks: History of the Bureau of Mines Twin Cities Research Center

Eastman painting of the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.
Minnesota Historical Society

A Confluence of Histories
Dakota Indians frequented the Coldwater Spring area long before Europeans arrived. The strategic importance of the place to both the Dakota and Americans focused on the confluence as a cross-roads for Indians and traders heading up and down the Mississippi but also going west via the Minnesota River.

Minnesota Historical Society

Minnesota’s First Settlement
Soldiers had finished and moved into Fort Snelling by 1824. Drawn by the fort’s presence, squatters established the community of Camp Coldwater around the spring and northwest along the Mississippi.

Buildings sit beside Coldwater Spring in this black and white photograph.
Minnesota Historical Society
Water for 100 Years
On June 8, 1857, the U.S. Army sold Fort Snelling to Franklin Steele for $90,000 but bought it back only four years later with the start of the Civil War. Soldiers from Fort Snelling located initially at Coldwater Spring in 1820 for the fresh water supply.
An aerial view of the Bureau of Mines (Coldwater) taken in 1959.
Minnesota Historical Society

From Deep in the Earth to High on the Moon
When occupied again, the spring would be an amenity only. As the American frontier closed and Americans realized the country’s natural resources were not infinite, Congress responded to concern over the waste of human and natural resources.

Building 1 with its blue facade behind a screen of trees.

A New Chapter
After closure, Congress in 1996 authorized the Secretary of the Department of Interior to convey the TCRC property to a university or government entity as the “Secretary deems appropriate.”

Coldwater Landscape Renderings (PDF; 2.18 MB)
2011: Landscape Renderings of Coldwater Spring (PDF; 2.18 MB)

Landscape renderings were created in 2011, showing plans to restore the landscape to an oak savanna prairie and turn it into a public park.

Last updated: July 7, 2015

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111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


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