In the 1820s, some small settlements developed around Fort Snelling. By the late 1830s, the fortress served as a destination for newcomers—lumbermen, missionaries, farmers, traders and travelers—migrating to the borderlands people were now calling “Minisota.” Minnesotan Franklin Steele first reached the area in 1837 where he worked as a sutler, selling goods to soldiers.
Fort Snelling’s garrison made up the bulk of the area’s population, along with Henry Sibley and Alexander Faribault’s seventy-five person American Fur Company operation. Other small settlements of traders, farmers, missionaries and refugees began to develop outside the walls of the fort, some with permission, some without. These residents built communities on land that would become known as Richfield.
The fields of Richfield proved bountiful for the settlers. Early crops included corn, wheat and oats. Wheat immediately became the “cash” crop, sold in the area’s first major market, St. Paul. Those in the southern parts of Hennepin County found it more profitable to haul their wheat crop to St. Paul than to the St. Anthony Falls district. This occurred in the days before “King Wheat” and the evolution of Minneapolis into a milling center.
Over the years, populations of all nearby communities increased and after World War II, Richfield flourished with commuters to Twin Cities jobs. As of 2019, Richfield has a population of about 35,000 residents who live within seven square miles of neighborhoods, parks, and shops.
Richfield has public schools, private schools, alternative education programs, and post-secondary options.
The school district, Independent School District 280, serves about 4,200 students in Richfield and part of Edina in grades K-12. Richfield schools are divided into elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.
Four elementary schools serve primary students in grades K-5, which focuses its curriculum on science, technology, engineering, and math; and RDLS Elementary, a dual language school which teaches students in both English and Spanish.
Students in grades 6-8 attend Richfield Middle School. Richfield High School serves approximately 1400 students in grades 9-12.
Academy of Holy Angels, a Catholic, co-educational high school that serves over 800 students in grades 9-12
The Fraser School, serving children six-weeks to six-years old
Blessed Trinity Catholic School
Seven Hills Preparatory Academy
Mount Calvary Lutheran School
Minnesota Japanese School
Augsburg Park Montessori School
Adler Graduate School
Globe University/Minnesota School of Business, a career college
Minnesota Life College
Richfield has more than 450 acres (1.8 km2) of parkland, 23 neighborhood parks and a nature preserve. Wood Lake Nature Center is a 150-acre (0.6 km2) park operated by the city of Richfield that features wetlands, walking paths and an interpretive center. When the Nature Center opened in 1971, it was one of the first urban nature centers in the United States, and is currently home to more than 200 different kinds of birds and 30 mammals.
Richfield’s Ice Arena has two full-size indoor skating rinks. Hockey games, figure skating, broom ball games, open skating, and community events all take place in this facility. Located near the ice arena is Richfield’s outdoor pool. Renovated in 2003, the swim complex features a 50-meter competitive pool, wading pool, and a 28-foot (9 m) double waterslide.
2017-2019 brought a major overhaul of 66th street to improve the look of the city and increase recreation opportunities, with new, dedicated bike and walking lanes for pedestrians.
Steve Christoff – member of the 1980 USA men’s hockey team that won the gold medal in the Miracle on Ice
Larry Fitzgerald – football player
Donald F. Gleason – American physician and pathologist, best known for devising the “Gleason score” of prostate cancer
Darby Hendrickson – Former NHL player
Richard Kruger – Current CEO of Imperial Oil, former Vice President of ExxonMobil
Charles W. Lindberg – U.S. Marine
Bill Mack – Sculptor, Artist
Damian Rhodes – hockey player
Chad Smith – Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer
Will Steger – Arctic explorer and environmentalist
Christopher Tjornhom – Minnesota state legislator