This Abandoned South Dakota Mill With A Heartbreaking History Is Hiding In Plain Sight

Falls Park in Sioux Falls is one of our state’s most majestic parks, and if you’ve ever visited, you’ve certainly noticed the remnants of the Queen Bee Mill. Do you know its history? Read on to find out!

In 1878, local politician and businessman Richard F. Pettigrew decided that a flour mill at the Falls on the Big Sioux River could be a profitable venture. At the time, wheat production was high in the area, and there was a lack of facilities to process it. There’s an unproven legend that Pettigrew found investors for the project by tricking them – he built a dam upriver, then knocked it down right before investors arrived to survey the scene, thus making the river appear much more robust than it really was.

Whether he used trickery or not, Pettigrew found investors to front the money for 40 acres and the building costs, and in 1881 the mill was complete. The mill building was constructed of local quartzite stone and stood seven stories high; other buildings included a grain elevator, cooper’s shop and warehouse. Five railroad lines met at the massive mill, bringing trains ready to ship grain in and flour out. The mill was capable of processing 1,200 barrels of grain daily. Residents of Sioux Falls were excited about the job prospects that the mill would bring to the area.

Sadly, the Big Sioux River didn’t really have the capacity to mill the grain needed – its water level fell dramatically ever summer. Wheat production in the area was nowhere near large enough to provide enough business for the mill, either, and within two years it was bankrupt and closed down.

The mill changed hands several times, and was mostly used as a warehouse for various businesses. On January 30, 1956, the mill caught fire and was destroyed, leaving just an empty shell as a reminder of its once grand aspirations.

We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/nominate/

Do you have any gorgeous photos of this haunting abandoned mill? Share them with us in the comments and maybe we’ll feature them on our FB page or in our newsletter!