The story of how St. Louis Park got its name from the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad is apocryphal at best.
Legend has it that the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad had the intention of running to St. Louis, Missouri, but by 1886, when our Village was formed, it hadn’t made it. In order to justify its name, the Railroad asked the Village to adopt the name St. Louis (as in, “that’s what I meant.”) This story can’t be right because by then the railroad was way past St. Louis Park. The railroad’s first leg to “Sioux City Junction” (south of Shakopee) was inaugurated on November 25, 1871. The book Milestones on the Prairie, recounting the history of the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, says:
The last spike of the single-track Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway was driven in November 1871, and officials took an inspection tour 12 days before the line opened to passenger service. The line ran east-west through present-day St. Louis Park to Lake Minnetonka. The railroad was built to get a route east avoiding Chicago via St. Louis, to tap Iowa coal fields, to send lumber south and to get wheat to Minneapolis. The line has its eastern terminal in Minneapolis and extends south. It made it to Albert Lea in 1877, after hard times in the Panic of 1873. Eventually it merged with the Iowa Central and got as far south as Peoria. Its slogan, “The Peoria Gateway,” emphasizes that it really was still trying to be an alternative to Chicago for eastbound traffic. Now the Chicago Northwestern , the line runs parallel to and south of Highway 7. Parallel and north of this track was the Milwaukee Road.
It seems that there was a deal, however, whereby the railroad would build a depot in the new village if it was named after the railroad. To our knowledge, though, the Minneapolis and St. Louis Depot was built prior to 1886.
Here is a blurb from some publication: “City founders linked the community name to the railroad because they believed the railroad would help transform this village of 45 families into a center of trade and industry.”
Another story is that the original intention to call the village St. Louis was quashed by the Post Office to avoid confusion with St. Louis, Missouri. This theory has flaws because the Post Office here was called Elmwood. (See below)
THE ORIGINAL SAINT LOUIS
St. Louis Park was named for the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railroad, and the railroad was named for the City of St. Louis, but who was the City of St. Louis named for? Wikipedia says it was Louis IX of France, who lived from 1215 to 1270. He served as King of France from 1226 (crowned at age 11) until his death. He married a sister of the wife of Henry III of England in 1234. They had 11 children. He was apparently known for his piety and kindness towards the poor. He went on crusades which were miserable failures, but they weren’t held against him.
When he died, much mischief was done to his body, and only one finger remained. Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed the canonization of Louis in 1297. Louis is the only French monarch to be made a saint. There is a portrait of St. Louis in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. This one was painted by El Greco.
St. Louis is the patron saint of France and hairdressers, among others.
An oft told myth is that St. Louis Park was called Elmwood before it was incorporated as a village in 1886. There is no evidence of this. A search of the word “Elmwood” in the Minneapolis Tribune before 1886 yields only:
- A kind of collar
- A cemetery in Memphis
- A town in Clay County
- A horse named Elmwood Chief
- A town outside of Peoria, Illinois
- The home of poet James Russell Lowell in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One interesting note is that the home was rented to Mrs. Ole Bull in 1885.
- A series of subdivisions in Minneapolis. There were also two in Edina. A curious note on May 27, 1884, is that “A plat of Elmwood addition, embracing sixteen lots bounded by the central line of section 18, Lake Minnetonka, and the county road, was filed yesterday.” Not sure where that would be. The only subdivision called Elmwood in St. Louis Park is Elmwood Village, platted recently for Village in the Park.
The idea no doubt comes from the fact that the first post office to serve St. Louis Park was originally called Elmwood. But even the neighborhood we now know as Elmwood was known simply as “St. Louis Park,” “Center,” or even “Quality Heights,” as opposed to other neighborhoods such as Oak Hill and Brookside.
In February 2008, the City officially adopted the slogan “Experience Life in the Park.” This was the first time that “the Park” had been used by the City government. The slogan was developed with the help of consultant Periscope.