Coon Rapids History

Historic photo of WCCO

The old-timers remember the way it used to be: dirt roads, no electricity, a small and short-lived City created by the construction of a dam. Now they see a thriving City in an urban setting with an excellent quality of life.

Coon Rapids traces its founding as a separate government entity back to July 30, 1857 when Anoka Township was organized. The City retains these same boundaries with the exclusion of the City of Anoka which was incorporated as a separate city.

When the Federal Government surveyed the area in 1847, it found a well traveled road running through Anoka County. The road was laid out in 1835 for military use and may be the oldest road in this part of the country. In 1843, trade was established from St. Paul to Pembina in the Red River Valley by Norman W. Kittson and the road then became part of the famous Red River Ox Cart Trail. The trail closely followed the present East River Road/Coon Rapids Boulevard alignment.

Agriculture was the first industry in the Coon Creek area, with farms ranging in size from 90 to 600 acres. In 1881, Dr. D. C. Dunham organized the first brick yard which was located near the old City Hall site and was known as the Anoka Pressed Brick and Terra Cotta Company. It represented the first non-agricultural industry in Coon Rapids. A legacy left by that brick industry is still visible today and is known as the "Clay Hole".

In the summer of 1898, the Great Northern Development Company proposed to build a dam below the Coon Creek Rapids with a power generating plant on the east side of the river. The actual construction did not start until 1912. Within one year, a small city had sprung up on the shores of the Mississippi River. Streets were laid out and roughly graded. The City’s population grew to over one thousand with laborers and engineers working on the dam. The dam was built by the Mississippi Power Company and was operating by 1914. Northern States Power Company ran the dam until 1969. It was acquired by the Hennepin County Park Board and serves as Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park today.

With the coming of the dam, Anoka Township took on a new name - Coon Creek Rapids which over the years was shortened to Coon Rapids. In July 1948, an election was held in an attempt to incorporate the Township of Anoka as a village. The idea was initially defeated but eventually passed successfully in October of 1952. In keeping with the progressive nature of the community, the voters went to the polls in November of 1957 and change the form of village government to the Council/Manager plan. Two years later, in June of 1959, the Village of Coon Rapids became the City of Coon Rapids.

Since 1959, the population has grown from 14,000 to over 61,500, making Coon Rapids the fifth largest suburb in the metropolitan area and the ninth largest city in the state of Minnesota. The City of Coon Rapids is a quiet suburb on the Mississippi River just twenty minutes north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the metropolitan area’s gateway to the northern part of the state.

Coon Rapids is 23 square miles and offers numerous neighborhood and regional parks, a municipal golf course, indoor ice arenas, outdoor ice rinks, softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails, swimming pools, and a major shopping development for everyone to enjoy.

The Mississippi River has been a major source of the vitality of Coon Rapids throughout history, originally as a catalyst for economic growth and today as a center for recreation and a symbol of the rich history of the City.