Swany White Flour Mills destroyed by fire

by Eric Schroeder
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FREEPORT, MINN. — Swany White Flour Mills, a small flour mill in Freeport that has been owned by the Thelen family since 1903, was destroyed by fire on Dec. 27. Owner Gary Thelen told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that there are no plans to rebuild the mill.

“If I was a younger man, I might consider it, but I’m 55 and I’m sorry to say that Swany White is going to be over with,” Mr. Thelen told the Star Tribune. “It’s just too expensive to rebuild. I’m pretty solid that I’m not going to wake up and reconsider it.”

The three-story wooden and brick structure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1897 and had been in the Thelen family since 1903. The facility had used the same milling equipment for white flour since 1913, and it had daily milling capacity of 12,000 lbs (120 cwts).

The mill produced a variety of items, including regular bleached and unbleached flour, whole wheat flour, wild rice flour, buckwheat flour, cracked wheat flour, graham flour, wheat bran, wheat germ, steel cut oats, corn meal, coarse oat bran, nine grain mix, regular and quick oatmeal, cream of rye, farina, as well as a variety of organic products.

Fire Chief Noah Van Beck of the Freeport Fire Department told the Star Tribune that the mill was operating Dec. 27 when flames were reported bursting from a top-level enclosure at 4:30 p.m. He said the fire may be related to machinery used to mill flour at the time, but cautioned that he was only speculating.

Mr. Thelen was in the mill at the time of the fire, but he said flames had so engulfed the upper floor that there was nothing he could do to save the structure, according to the Star Tribune.

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