MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — St. Paul become a city in 1854. For Minneapolis, it was 1867. More than 150 years, later the Twin Cities are two distinct places.

And, that had Ashley and Andrew wanting to know: Why didn’t Minneapolis and St. Paul ever become one city? Good Question.

According to Chad Roberts, president of the Ramsey County Historical Society, when the rivalry started between the Twin Cities is still up for interpretation.  He points to a 1951 exchange between the St. Paul and St. Anthony newspapers that included the phrases – “craven liar” and “slew of despond.”

“And, that was the polite language,” he says.

St. Anthony would later become part of Minneapolis.

St. Paul was settled before Minneapolis. From its site as head of navigation of the Mississippi River, it had industry banking and the State Capitol. During the mid-1800s, the big money was in wholesaling and transportation, says Mary Wingerd, author of “Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in St. Paul.”

“But, the easterners in Minneapolis had money backing them,” says Wingerd. “Minneapolis had huge potential because of St. Anthony Falls.”

twin cities history Why Didnt Minneapolis, St. Paul Ever Become One City?

(credit: Henn. History Museum)

As the milling industry took off in Minneapolis in the late 1800s, Minneapolis surpassed St. Paul’s population. Neither Roberts or Heidi Heller, archivist with the Hennepin History Museum, has ever read about a move to join the two Cities.

Heller says part of that reason is distance. During the 1800s, the two Cities were 14 miles apart – a full day’s carriage ride.

“The cities were smaller and they grew together,” says Heller. “You didn’t even have them connected by interstate until 1968.”

The demographics of the Cities were also different. St. Paul was more Catholic and Democratic, while Minneapolis was more Protestant and Republican. Roberts also says the politicians weren’t interested in losing political power by merging.

“There was so much established power and ego and industry and they were all competing against each other,” Roberts, says.

During the 1890 Census, Wingerd says both Cities were cheating the books and counting people in cemeteries to make their Cities appear larger than they were.

She also points out to research she uncovered in the late 1800s, when St. Paul built its Town and Country Club near the Minneapolis border with the hope of attracting people from Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis responded by building Minikahda as far away from St. Paul as they could,” Wingerd says.

Since those times, the rivalry has died down and the Cities now cooperate politically and economically. Heller, though, believes a little competition isn’t a bad thing.

“I think it’s good for the two Cities, it allows them to be their best and it allows for a richer history,” Heller says. “If we were just one city, it would be a much different story.”

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