Lake Elmo was part of Oakdale Township until 1951 when the township separated into Oakdale and East Oakdale. In 1925 the small commercial district incorporated as a village and in 1972 the village and East Oakdale Township joined to become the City of Lake Elmo.
Bass Lake, the original name of the lake, was noted for its fresh water and good fishing. Both lake and village were renamed Lake Elmo in 1879 by railroad promoter and St. Paul businessman, Alpheus B. Stickney, as being more euphonious.
Lake Elmo became a popular summer resort. There were many livery stables in St. Paul and Stillwater and a large part of their business was taking people out to Lake Elmo. In 1872 the St. Paul, Stillwater & Taylor’s Falls Railroad (later the Omaha Road) passed through Lake Elmo, making it easy for tourists from St. Paul to reach the lake. A. B. Stickney was presumably acting for the railroad when he purchased the land between the railroad tracks and the lake. There he built an “elegant and spacious” 58-room lake hotel. Probably Stickney’s influence caused the county fair grounds to be built on land he owned at Lake Elmo in 1875. In 1876 at the fair, baseball was the game and there were matches every day. Unfortunately in 1877, a tornado hit the fairgrounds and the fair was moved to Stillwater.
Lake Elmo enjoyed a decade of solid success with its well-publicized resort hotel, but attempts to build a cottage community around the lake generally did not succeed. The most ambitious was the Elmo Residence Park, platted in 1884 around the eastern side of the lake. Several cottages, a bandstand, and clubhouse were completed.
Many of the early farmers were Germans, and there were several Irish families, but there were few of the Yankees so prevalent on the St. Croix River. Several farmers specialized in Jersey and Holstein cattle and Yorkshire swine. Among these was William Moscrip, who developed a modern dairy facility now known as North Star Farms east of Sunfish Lake, which he sold in 1948 to Leo Shiltgen.
Lake Elmo gradually lost its importance as an agricultural center, but began to see residential growth as suburban development moved eastward from St. Paul.. Today much of the city is taken up by Lake Elmo Regional Park Reserve, on the western shore of Lake Elmo.
Until recently, in general, Lake Elmo has elected to remain rural, However, Lake Elmo has experienced strong growth over the past decade, including urban expansion as well as development of the Historic Old Village area.
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Updated: 20th October, 2020 4:51 AM (UTC).