First, some background history on the location.
The Midway Bunge Grain Elevator was built in 1936, and closed in 2002. A large part of the grain elevator was torn down in 2007 to make room for a housing development. The head tower and remaining structures were planned for redevelopment into housing units, but haulted due to a slump in the housing market.
There have been at least two deaths in the elevator. In 1937 James F. Wallace, 74, died after falling down a man-lift. He was a night watchman at the Bunge. The second death was Germaine Vigeant, 20, who was exploring the abandoned tower in January 2006. Around 3:30am, the University of Minnesota student was climbing the tower with a friend without a flashlight. Vigeant fell through an open hatch on the 10th floor of a silo.
Only the section outlined in red remains today (July 2010). The large silos and north wing of silos were torn down in 2007, the garage area facing the train tracks was torn down within the last 6 months.
I had been wanting to get inside the Bunge for a long time. We had been periodically checking it out and seeing if there was a way in for over a year. The place was locked and welded up tight.
When we stopped by on Friday night, we noticed someone had somehow bent apart two wall panels on the south side of the tower. There was a chunk of cement holding the wall panels apart. The hole was small enough for me to squeeze through, but too small for Chris. We worked for a while on wedging larger items between the panels to hold them further apart. If the chunks of cement slipped, it would probably snap shut pretty quickly. It probably took us a couple hours to get the job done. It was risky because it’s surrounded by housing. To the south across the tracks are a bunch of apartment buildings and some houses, to the north is the new housing development, to the west is the housing development’s park, and to the right there were movies in the park. Needless to say it we had to make a little noise to make it happen. The only people we saw were a young guy who went inside and looked around a little bit, and two other guys walking by who didn’t mind what we were doing.
Once we got the entrance all set, we went home and returned in the morning. We definitely weren’t going to climb up there in the dark.
The next morning we arrived, slipped into the building quickly, and started climbing the stairs. The stairs were surprisingly stable, but we were still very cautious climbing them. It was hard to count how many stories the building was – all of the floors have much higher than average ceilings, and climbing the stairs seemed never ending, even though we stopped to check out each floor.
There were a lot of uncovered holes that you could fall through into a silo. I’m not sure if this is what Vigeant fell through, but it’s definitely likely. We were sure to be very careful of where we walked.
The building has a ton of really cool graffiti and there were a lot of really risky spots tagged up. I’ve heard people refer to this location as a graffiti museum, and it really is.
The top floor of the Bunge Grain Elevator tower. Up two ladders and you’re on the roof, complete with an awesome view of downtown Minneapolis and surrounding neighborhoods.