For most of its existence, Eden Prairie was a sleepy, pastoral village on the far southwestern fringes of the Twin Cities metro area.
Between 1880 and 1960, Eden Prairie’s population barely changed. During those 80 years, the population increase was only 1,300 people, from 739 in 1880 to 2,000 in 1960.
By 2000, the population swelled to almost 60,000, a 3,000-percent increase. It changed from a predominantly agricultural rural area to a thriving, business-rich community that is a highly desirable place to live and work.
The City owes its name to Elizabeth Fries Ellet, an East Coast writer who visited the area and proclaimed it to be the garden spot of the territory in her travelogue book "Summer Rambles in the West." The Elizabeth Fries Ellet Interpretive Trail in the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area captures the area's historical legacy.
American Indians were the first to live in the area. Prior to a major reconstruction project of Flying Cloud Drive that began in 2018, archaeologists collected artifacts at six significant sites along the Minnesota River which help tell the stories of the Dakota Nation tribes who called the area home. The 106 Group worked in collaboration with representatives from four Dakota tribes on this project. The case study is available on the 106 Group's website.
In 1851, a treaty opened land west of the Mississippi River to settlement allowing pioneers to settle in what is now Eden Prairie. The town board of Eden Prairie held its first meeting in a log school house on May 11, 1858, the same day Minnesota became a state. In 1929, the first graduating class left the Eden Prairie Consolidated School. Today that building serves as the main office for Eden Prairie School District 272.
Eden Prairie's farming community grew slowly over the years. Flying Cloud Airport was the first sign of big development in 1946. The 1960s and 1970s were decades of growth for the City's parks and recreation system. In the mid-'70s, the community earned a higher profile with the addition of Interstate 494 and Eden Prairie Center mall.
Today, Eden Prairie is home to more than 2,200 businesses, nearly 24,000 households and more than 60,000 residents.
For more about the history of Eden Prairie, visit the Eden Prairie Historical Society website at edenprairiehistory.org or call 952-949-8580.