Historic Mill Burns 28 Dec 11

Swany White flour mill, widely known for architecture and operations from another era, burned Tuesday.

The St. Cloud Times reports the fire started about 4:30 p.m., and the three-story building, packed with flames, collapsed about 6:30 p.m. while many in town watched. No injuries were reported Tuesday evening.

Fire crews from at least five Central Minnesota fire departments worked in 25-degree temperatures to try to control the fire in the century-old business in Freeport, 28 miles northwest of St. Cloud.

Swany White is Central Minnesota’s only flour mill and specialized in unique commercial-grade and organic flours sold in grocery stores and food cooperatives around the state. Owner Gary Thelen and one employee worked in the mill, which reported production at 750,000 pounds of flour a year.

Swany White was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also garnered national recognition when it was captured in work by National Geographic photographer Richard Olsenius and became part of Garrison Keillor’s book “In Search of Lake Wobegon.” It is recognized by historians as a significant landmark in the state.

“It is one of the last complete milling operations in the state and is significantly important because it is publicly accessible,” historic preservation consultant Robert Frame said in a 1999 interview.

The Swany White mill was built in 1897.