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Northfield, Minnesota

Northfield is a city in Dakota County, Minnesota. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 17,147.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Tourism
3 Geography
4 Demographics


The city was founded by John W. North in the 19th century. Early industry included a flour mill powered by the Cannon River, which flows through town.

Saint Olaf College was founded in 1876 on the edge of town. Carleton College, on the opposite side of the river, was founded in 1866. These two institutions, which together have approximately 5,000 students, faculty, and staff, have come to bear a major influence on the makeup of Northfield.

Northfield was at one time an agricultural center serving first wheat, then dairy farms. It was part of a larger pattern as the "wheat frontier" moved west, leaving dairly operations and other more diversified farms in its wake. 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. The agricultural character of the city has always been tempered by the presence of the colleges, a trend that continues to this day.

The 1970s were a time of expansion of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area south of the Minnesota River, with the opening of the Burnsville Center shopping mall c. 1978 being a major milestone. Northfield has suffered an inexorable erosion of its agricultural makeup since then, becoming more a remote suburb and bedroom community for families working in the southern fringes of the metro area. The downtown grain elevator accepted its last load of corn in 2000, and the last of the original downtown clothing merchants closed its doors in 2003.

The buildings in downtown Northfield are a reasonably well-preserved example of late 19th/early 20th century architecture. Owing to the town's early and lasting financial success, the downtown is more extensive and better built than that of otherwise similar communities in Southern Minnesota and Iowa.

The original board game Trivial Pursuit listed Northfield as the only college town with 2 colleges and 1 bar. This is no longer true, as the number of bars has increased.


On September 7, 1876, outlaw Jesse James was prevented from robbing a bank in downtown Northfield. The James/Younger gang was subsequently disbanded due to the deaths of most of the members. Jesse and Frank James fled to South Dakota. The bank has since been converted to a museum, and an outdoor festival is held each September to commemorate the event. The determination as to whether the festival commemorates the outlaw, or his capture, is left to the reader.

The festival is among the largest outdoor celebrations in Minnesota, and is marked by a parade, a rodeo, an arts and crafts exposition, several nights of live music, and a reenactment of the bank robbery.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.2 km² (7.0 mi²). 18.1 km² (7.0 mi²) of it is land and 0.1 km² (0.04 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.43% water.


As of the census 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 people living in poverty, 5.3% are under the age of 18 and 7.4% are 65 or older.