“Where should I live?”
Everyone asks this simple, yet important, question at some point. And the final decision impacts all areas of our life, potentially for the rest of our life! Thanks for joining us in this ongoing series as we explore many of the Minneapolis-St. Paul neighborhoods and communities to help provide some insight and guidance for your answer! Let’s look at Harmony and Richland Mills – commonly known today as Richfield!
As settlers migrated west to the borderlands of “Minisota”, the Fort Snelling garrison was the focal point of the area in the early to mid-1800s. The rich soil of the nearby fields were farmed by these new residents resulting in crops of corn, wheat and oats. One of the first settlers, Riley Bartholomew from Ohio, claimed land in 1852 on the east side of Wood Lake and built the oldest house in Richfield at 6901 Lyndale Avenue South. Today, this house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the Richfield Historical Society. Bartholomew was instrumental in developing the area and helped build both the first church and school in 1854, was politically active for many years and was the area’s territorial delegate at the 1857 constitutional convention.
In April 1858, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners established the boundaries of Richfield – comprising around 63 square miles of land! Today, that would make it the 5th largest city (by land size) in Minnesota! At that time, Richfield’s boundaries were Lake Street on the north, the Mississippi River on the east, I494 on the south and Highway 169 on the west! Beginning in 1867 and finally ending in 1998, nine different times either legislative actions or annexations have shrunk Richfield to its present size of just 7.01 square miles. These actions greatly expanded the size of Minneapolis (1867, 1883, 1887, 1927), resulted in the communities of St. Louis Park (1886), Edina (1888) and part of Hopkins (1888) and carved out the home to the present-day Twin Cities International Airport (1920, 1942, 1998).
Just a month later on May 11, 1858, not only was Minnesota admitted as the 32nd state of the United States, but Richfield (as well as Bloomington and Eden Prairie) was organized by local citizens at a meeting near 53rd and Lyndale and became a town! Soon after, the residents, who referred to themselves as from Harmony (the post office) or from Richland Mills (the first gristmill on Minnehaha Creek and a hub of area activity) agreed on the name of Richfield for their home. At this time, only around 860 people lived in the 63 square miles comprising the new town! In 1908, Richfield became a village with a population around 2,600.
Slow growth continued but after World War II, developers rapidly built up the area with homes for the veterans and by 1950, Richfield grew to around 17,500 and also became a city.
By 1954, the city had nearly doubled to a size of 31,756. And by 1960, housing stock grew from about 4,000 units over 11,000 units. The majority of Richfield’s current 10,000 homes were built at that time. At its peak, Richfield was home to almost 50,000 people in 1970. Due to additional loss of land, smaller family sizes and land loss to expansion of the major freeways, Richfield has stabilized at about 36,000 residents and is the 26th largest city, by population, in the state. Demographically, the city has a median age of 36.7 years old and its population has about 62% whites, 16% Hispanic/Latino, 10% African American and 7% Asian.
BUSINESS & DEVELOPMENT
Richfield has a vibrant business base and employs about 20,000 people. The city’s largest employer is Best Buy Corporation, an international electronics retailer (with origins in St. Paul as the Sound of Music audio specialty store!) and Fortune 100 company who moved their international headquarters to Richfield in 2003. They currently employ around 4,500 people. Other major employers include US Bank (2,400), Richfield Public Schools (680), Target (400), Metro Sales (300), Menards (200) and Richfield-Bloomington Honda (175).
Some major re-development projects have helped give Richfield a new look including Cedar Point Commons (66th and Cedar Avenue shopping mall with over 350,000 square feet of retail space), Shops at Lyndale (78th St and I494), as well as major residential and retail projects at 66th and Lyndale (Lakes at Lyndale) and 66th and Penn. There has been roughly $200 million in redevelopment in the last few years. The Hub Shopping Center, Richfield’s first shopping center that opened in 1954, at one time was the Twin Cities premier shopping center. Still in use, Richfield is exploring redevelopment of this historic area as part of its 2040 comprehensive plan.
Independent School District #280 encompasses the Richfield Public Schools with 1 high school, 1 middle school and 4 elementary schools serving about 4,200 students. According to www.niche.com, ISD 280 ranks #14 out of 356 Minnesota school districts for diversity and has a district-wide student-teacher ratio of 16:1. In 2017, a community referendum totaling $86.8 million was passed that will allow for all the district buildings to be updated and renovated in the next few years. Other available Richfield schools include Seven Hills Preparatory Academy (6-8) (rated an 8 out of 10), Partnership Academy, SciTech Academy and Watershed High School, all charter schools. Private schools include Academy of Holy Angels (9-12, #13 ranked private school in Minnesota) and Blessed Trinity Catholic School (PK-8) and Augsburg Park Montessori School (PK-K).
Richfield is also centrally located to many nearby excellent colleges and universities including the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas, Hamline University, Augsburg College, Concordia University and Normandale Community College, among others.
Despite its compact size, Richfield offers many outdoor recreational opportunities. There are 22 parks covering 450 acres and including 11 miles of walking paths. Wood Lake Nature Center and Veteran’s Memorial Park are the two largest parks. Wood Lake Nature Center is the largest with 150 acres of land, a 4,000 square foot building housing educational exhibits and offices, three miles of crushed limestone trails and boardwalks, picnic areas and a 100-seat amphitheater. Veteran’s Memorial Park encompasses 106 acres including 2 miles of walking paths, a huge picnic shelter, miniature golf, playground equipment and more. It adjoins the community pool which is home to one of the few remaining 50-meter Olympic size pools in the state. The park also has the “Honoring All Veterans Memorial” – two granite tablets engraved with the names of US Veterans that face a bronze statue of Richfield resident Cpl. Charles Lindberg, one of the four US Marines to raise the first flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. Veteran’s Park is also home to one of the best 4th of July fireworks shows in the metro area, too!
Other activities include Augsburg Skatepark (70th and Nicollet), a tier-one skate park that simulates a streetscape with steps railings and concrete benches and the outdoor Pickelball courts at Washington Park (76th and 17th Av S).
And there are many good local restaurants including Pizza Luce, Broadway Pizza, Andale Taqueria, Penn Nutrition and Khan’s Mongolian Barbeque.
For youth sports, Richfield has 12 non-profit organizations that offer kids a variety of activities including baseball, basketball, softball, hockey, football, soccer, swimming, gymnastics and wrestling.
At just 7.01 square miles of land, Richfield is the 147th largest city by land area in Minnesota (906 cities total). Despite the ongoing redevelopment of the area, Richfield’s housing stock remains predominately those homes built during its expansion years of the early 1950s. But there are multiple options available including some luxury homes, newer built upscale townhomes and condos, senior housing units as well as high-end apartment buildings and modest and low-income housing options in the mix, too. But, as with other inner ring suburbs, the most prevalent option is the affordable 1940s and 1950s built rambler style home and 1 ½ story home.
Home values have been on the rise every year since 2011 when the median sales price bottomed out at $140,250 at the end of the housing crash. For 2019, the median sales price was $272,000, an increase of 94%! For the most part, Richfield has seen consistent annual price increases of about 8% during the 2010s. While Richfield has seen strong overall appreciation, it remains an affordable option for many first-time and move-up buyers and is expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
NOTABLE RESIDENTS/ALUMNI of RICHFIELD
Charles “Chuck” Lindberg – Richfield resident from 1951 until his death in 2007. One of the four Marines who raised the first flag on Iwo Jima in World War II. The famous flag raising photograph was actually the second flag raised and was done to install a larger flag more visible to other parts of the island indicating to troops that Mount Surabachi was under US control.
Will Steger – Born 1944 in Richfield, this noted and well-recognized Arctic environmentalist has achieved many firsts with his dog-sled expeditions including the first dog expedition (without re-supply) to the North Pole in 1986 as well as the first dogsled expedition across Antarctica (3,471 miles) in 1989-1990. He is also the 4th person to reach both Poles!
Larry Fitzgerald – He attended the Academy of Holy Angels and has been an NFL star receiver for the Arizona Cardinals since 2004. Among numerous accomplishments, he is an 11-time Pro Bowl receiver and was the NFL’s 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He is considered a near lock to be inducted to the NFL Football Hall of Fame when he retires.
Steve Christoff – Raised in Richfield, this 1976 graduate of Richfield High School was a member of the 1980 gold medal winning US Olympic hockey team. He starred in hockey for Richfield High School and the University of Minnesota and had a 5-year NHL career playing three seasons with the hometown Minnesota North Stars.
Others – Donald Gleason (long-time resident – physician who developed the Gleason score for prostrate cancer), Darby Hendrickson (born and raised – 11-year NHL hockey career, 4 seasons with the Minnesota Wild), Maria Regan Gonzalez (resident – first Latina mayor in Minnesota history).
Richfield remains a strong, stable inner ring suburb while focusing on revitalization to maintain its viability. With a good core of business employment, generally affordable housing and diverse population base, it has maintained a small town flavor despite being surrounded by more metropolitan neighbors. The convenient major traffic routes of I35W, I494 and Crosstown Highway 62 make both Minneapolis and St. Paul easily accessible. Richfield, “The Urban Hometown”, invites you to explore this warm community and make it your hometown!
For an additional fun history read about Richfield, check out: http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/61/v61i02p048-061.pdf