Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Northfield was at one time an agricultural center serving first wheat, then dairy farms. It has never been immune to economic and cultural change. The "wheat frontier" moved west as railroads were built across North Dakota. Dairy operations and other more diversified farms replaced the wheat-based agriculture. The region now produces substantial amounts of corn, soybeans, turkeys, and hogs. Dairy and beef operations are still present though not in the numbers they once were. Malt-O-Meal, a breakfast cereal maker, is what remains of the milling industry. When the factory cooks malt, the aromas bathe the town. The smells are much preferred to those of hog farms that come to town when the wind blows the wrong way.
Since very early in its history, Northfield has been a center of higher education. Carleton College was founded in 1866 on the north edge of town by New England Congregationalists, like those who had established Harvard more than 200 years earlier. St. Olaf College was created in 1876 on the western edge of town by Norwegian Lutherans anxious to preserve their faith and culture by training teachers and preachers. These two institutions, which today enroll more than 5,000 students, have had a major influence on the makeup of Northfield. There are perhaps more pizza places and used bookstores per capita here than anywhere in the USA. The city's motto, proudly displayed on signs at two of the highway entrances to town, is "Cows, Colleges, and Contentment." There are more pigs than cows in Northfield today, but there are the colleges. Contentment is something of an issue. The Chamber of Commerce contends it implies an anti-growth sentiment (which is present). Politics also disturbs what contentment there is.
The 1970s were a time of expansion of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area south of the Minnesota River. The completion of Interstate Highway 35 and the opening of the Burnsville Center shopping mall about 1978 were major milestones. Northfield has experienced an inexorable erosion of what remained of its agricultural makeup since then. The downtown grain elevator accepted its last load of corn in 2000 and was torn down in 2002. The opening of the Mall of America in Bloomington, 30 miles directly north of the town, has hastened the changes. With direct highway connections to the southern Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, residential growth has been rapid since the mid-1990s. Northfield is becoming a suburb and bedroom community on the southern fringe of the metropolitan area. A new hospital, which opened in 2004 in the northwest corner of town, is actually in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. Its location is, in part, meant to attract patients from the rapidly growing southern suburbs and, in part, to take advantage of higher government health care reimbursements to urban hospitals.
Other main street changes have come with larger economic developments. Jacobsen's, the last of the downtown clothing merchants closed its doors in 2003 primarily due to its small volume of sales, the reluctance of wholesalers to service such small accounts, and the competition from large chains such as K-Mart and Target Corporation. The main street space once occupied by Jacobsen's -- including a former opera house -- is now being occupied by specialty shops and upscale condos. In October 2000, Target built a relatively small store in Northfield after a hotly disputed political campaign and a community referendum. The evolution of Northfield's economy is today exemplified by construction of Village on the Cannon. Begun in 2004 on the site of a locally-owned grocery store forced out of business by a "big box" chain store, Village on the Cannon will become a complex of condominiums for seniors and an assisted living facility. Like the current expansions of other businesses serving the rapidly growing retired population, Three Links and the Northfield Retirement Center, Village on the Cannon represents the vitality of the town's community and economy.
Many of the buildings in downtown Northfield are reasonably well-preserved examples of late 19th/early 20th century architecture. Because of early economic successes, stability provided by two thriving colleges, and the abilities of business owners and entrepreneurs to adapt to changing conditions, the downtown is more extensive and better built than that of otherwise similar communities in Southern Minnesota and Iowa. Today, commercial development continues on the southern edge of the city, where there is room for growth and parking.
The original board game Trivial Pursuit listed Northfield as the only college town with 2 colleges and 1 bar. This is no longer true. There are now several bars in town. Whether that change and others signal a lack of contentment remains an issue.
== Historical Timelines ==
Business Growth & Community Development
Faith & Civic Life
Veterans & Military
Music & the Arts
TourismOn September 7, 1876, outlaw Jesse James and his buddies disturbed the contentment of Northfield when they tried to rob a bank in downtown Northfield. Armed citizens resisted the robbers and thwarted the theft but not before the bank's cashier was murdered. A couple of the James/Younger gang were killed (the skeleton of one was displayed in the Historical Society museum -- see below -- for many years) and a couple more arrested. Jesse and Frank James fled to South Dakota. The bank building has since been converted to a museum operated by the Northfield Historical Society. The bank is still in operation half a block away. One result of the attempted robbery is an outdoor festival, The Defeat of Jesse James Days, held each September to commemorate the event. The festival is among the largest outdoor celebrations in Minnesota. Thousands of visitors witness reenactments of the robbery, watch championship rodeo, enjoy a carnival, explore arts and crafts expostions, and attend musical performances. Another result was a Hollywood movie which portrayed the bedraggled James brothers riding off into the mountains west of town. In reality the mountains are about 1,200 miles west of town.
A non-profit, Northfield Citizens Online (NCO), maintains a community weblog called Northfield.org that includes online discussions, a directory of websites for the area, and a civic blogosphere project.
As of the census2 of 2000, there are 17,147 people, 4,909 households, and 3,210 families residing in the city. The population density is 947.1/km² (2,452.2/mi²). There are 5,119 housing units at an average density of 282.8/km² (732.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 92.57% White, 0.90% African American, 0.34% Native American, 2.36% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.78% from other races, and 1.99% from two or more races. 5.73% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 4,909 households out of which 35.4% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% are married couples living together, 9.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 34.6% are non-families. 27.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.6% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.53 and the average family size is 3.08.
In the city the population is spread out with 20.2% under the age of 18, 32.1% from 18 to 24, 21.0% from 25 to 44, 16.1% from 45 to 64, and 10.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 23 years. For every 100 females there are 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $49,972, and the median income for a family is $61,055. Males have a median income of $40,008 versus $28,456 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,619. 7.2% of the population and 2.8% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 5.3% of those under the age of 18 and 7.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
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