On This Date In Twin Cities History - February 8, 1951

3M Plant explosion in St. Paul (MHS)
3M Plant explosion in St. Paul circa 1951 (MHS)

On this date in 1951, a gas explosion tore through several 3M buildings on St. Paul’s East Side killing thirteen people and injuring another 50.

The morning of the explosion was bitterly cold with temperatures dipping to 12 degrees below zero.  Some 4,300 employees had just reported for work at the buildings near the corner of what is today Forest Street N. and Bush Ave (old Faquier Place) .

At 8:20 AM an explosion rocked the six-story Minerals Building (Building 12) destroying two floors and damaging the adjacent tape packing plant.   Building 12 was used for crushing minerals and treating them in butane ovens to create abrasives for sandpaper.  Machinery inside the building was left in a tangled mess of steel.

The blast sent smoke through the underground tunnels of the plant and debris rained down on area streets.  The force of the explosion also shattered windows in nearby homes.  After the explosion a fire broke out in the building which took firemen several hours to extinguish.

The following day, 3M President Richard M. Carlton announced that a propane gas supply line had ruptured causing the blast.

The 3M plant explosion is still considered one of St. Paul’s worst disasters causing $1 million in damage in addition to the deaths and injuries.  3M, which is based in Maplewood, closed the last of its St. Paul buildings in 2008.