Our History

Chanhassen’s development from a quiet town to a prosperous suburb of the Twin Cities has been dramatic in the past few years.

Chanhassen was one of the earliest settlements in Carver County, but it grew at one of the slowest rates until the late 1960’s. Until that time, farming was the leading industry.

Early settlers arrived during the 1850s to stake out farms. The records show that the first claim settled in Chanhassen Township was in June 1852 by Joseph Vogel, west of Rice Lake, and near the Shakopee Station. Vogel was a German and had lived in St. Paul before coming to this area.

In August 1852, Joseph Kessler, another German, followed Vogel and settled four miles northwest of him. The families became good friends, and in July 1854 Joseph Vogel married Kessler’s sister Veronica. It was reportedly the first marriage of a white couple in Carver County.

In 1853 when the Indian land title ended, settlers came in considerable numbers. It is believed that Clarissa Cleaveland selected the name “Chanhassen” (originally spelled Chanhassan) for the town, which is the Dakota (Sioux) name meaning “the tree with sweet sap” or sugar maple tree.

During Chanhassen’s first town meeting held May 17, 1858, at the county’s first school house, the name Chanhassen was officially adopted. Other business at the meeting included the election of township officers; a vote to raise $200 for town expenses; and a law that all animals except swine would be allowed to run loose between April 1 and November 1. A year later, they freed the swine also.

After the Civil War in 1865, the Rev. Magnus Mayr formally organized a parish of German Catholics under the title of St. Hubert Church, which up to then was only a mission station. A small log house was built to serve the parish on land donated by Henry Pauly Sr., the same site where the historic church stands today. Once the church was built, the parishioners established a school, and St. Hubert’s became a focal point for many of the surrounding settlers.

The Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad also drew more settlers to the little town, and in 1896 the Village of Chanhassen was incorporated. Pauly’s General Store became the main store in the village, and a saloon, feed store, lumber yard, and the State Bank of Chanhassen also became established.

Chanhassen’s population and businesses grew slowly for several decades. During the 1960s, Chanhassen’s first mini-mall was built to house a drug store, grocery store, hardware store, and a restaurant and was located at the corner of Great Plains Boulevard and West 78th Street. In 1967, the present City of Chanhassen was formed by a merger of the village and surrounding township; the population increased to 4,200.

That same decade, a home-builder named Herb Bloomberg moved his business to Chanhassen and opened a lumber and hardware store to provide him with specialty wood products. He became interested in the theater business, having built the Old Log Theatre in Excelsior, and opened his own 600-seat theater in Chanhassen in October 1968, combining dining and entertainment to create the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Today, under new ownership, the theatres attract annual audiences of more than 300,000, as well as theater professionals from all over the world.

In the late 1970’s, Chanhassen embarked on a redevelopment plan for its downtown and industrial parks. Today, our thriving businesses include a variety of commercial and industrial companies. Downtown Chanhassen offers shopping, eating, and entertainment. Currently, over 500 businesses call Chanhassen home and they employ over 8,500 people. Chanhassen’s main industries include: printing, financial services, medical products, engineering, food production, and high-tech manufacturing.

With a population of over 20,000, Chanhassen has 14,427 acres in 24-square miles. Most of the city is located within Carver County; however, 154 acres in eastern Chanhassen are located in Hennepin County. There are 11 beautiful lakes that are wholly or partially located in Chanhassen. Chanhassen’s 500-acre park system features community parks, nature preserves, and many neighborhood parks scattered around the community.

Somehow, the words of the Rev. H. M. Nichols, written in 1855, still have significance today: “Two years ago, Chanhassen was nowhere. Now, there is hardly a vacant claim left in the township. The settlers are far above average of new settlements, in respectability, morality, and intelligence; and rarely can a pleasanter or more desirable community be found, than that now settled in Chanhassen.”

Related Resources

Ariel Photograph
Church Gathering
Train Depot
Main Street
Store Interior