Inver Grove Heights: a celebration 50 years in the making

(submitted photo)

(submitted photo)

(submitted photo)

In 1965 a town and a village came together. This year, the city that was formed from that union is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Inver Grove Heights was granted “incorporated city” status in February 1965.

“It was the coming together of two communities that were separate [entities] into one community,” says Joe Lynch, city administrator. “It’s grown from two separate towns of a combined population of about 4,000 people to a city of over 35,000.”

Before the union of Inver Grove Township and Inver Grove Village, commodities found in one of them might have been unavailable in the other.

Lynch says it wasn’t uncommon in situations like this for one area to have sewer and water services while the other didn’t. This was the case with police protection as well. Dakota County served both communities, but only one had its own constables.

When Inver Grove Heights first formed, a majority of the land was used for agriculture. Lynch said that while croplands can still be seen today, suburban housing and business developments are constantly expanding southward.

The city is bordered by the Mississippi River to the east and has two major thoroughfares — Interstate 494 and U.S. Highway 52.

Serving his community

State Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-District 52B, was born the year Inver Grove Heights was incorporated and grew up there.

He has fond memories of carefree days playing outdoors with his friends. “In my neighborhood, there was always a baseball, football, or boot hockey game — literally every day.”

At that time only about 3,000 people lived in Inver Grove Heights, but Atkins says there were a lot of big families and active kids with involved, hard-working parents.

Teachers, police officers and firefighters knew people by name, he recalls. And he says there weren’t a lot of places to go in town when he was young.

“I remember when I was about 9, sitting in an apple tree at the old farm near our neighborhood with a bunch of buddies, talking about what we wished Inver Grove had: places to do things like a swimming pool, a movie theater, restaurants and stores,” says Atkins, who marvels at how much the community has changed in his lifetime.

He served as mayor from 1992 to 2002. He was only 26 when first elected and was the youngest mayor in Minnesota back then.

This experience gave him a perspective that would later serve him as a state representative. Atkins says every legislator at the state Capitol would benefit from serving on a city council.

“It teaches you to set aside differences, apply some common sense and get things done,” Atkins says.

To celebrate the city’s golden anniversary, Atkins has been making a list on his website called “50 for 50 in IGH history.” He says he was inspired by ESPN’s “30 for 30.”

The honorees on the list all come from locals who had stories they wanted to share with others.

Atkins says older residents enjoy sharing their knowledge of local history, and he’s discovered newer residents love hearing about the past as well.

Celebrating 50 years

While Inver Grove Heights was granted its status in February of 1965, the paperwork was not received until December of that year.

“I think people in City Hall assumed that the anniversary date was in December based on the fact that the information was received by the state then,” Lynch says.

But after interviewing a former mayor and former city council members, it was discovered the anniversary date was actually earlier than the celebration organizers had thought.

“February 2015 had already gone by, so we couldn’t retroactively celebrate a date after it had gone by,” Lynch explains.

Throughout 2015, the city has been working on an anniversary video and a commemorative booklet. Tracy Petersen, recreation superintendent, says current mayor George Tourville and the city council members wanted to recognize some of the milestones the city has experienced durng the past five decades.

The booklet will be available at Inver Grove Heights City Hall, Veterans Memorial Community Center, Inver Glen Library, River Heights Chamber of Commerce and the tree lighting.

Starting Monday, Dec. 7, there will be a full week of activities to celebrate the holidays as well as the 50th anniversary. There will be a tree lighting ceremony from 6 to 8:30 p.m. that day at Veterans Memorial Community Center, 8055 Barbara Ave.

“The Inver Grove Heights Parks and Recreation was planning to kick off its new ‘Holidays in the Heights’ events with a tree lighting ceremony, and so we decided to combine the 50th anniversary celebration with the tree lighting event and give the public a chance to celebrate both fun events,” Petersen says.

A member from the community will be able to help Tourville light the tree during the ceremony.

Lynch says there will be a proclamation at the lighting by the city and also by the State of Minnesota to recognize the anniversary.

We’re very happy and proud to be a city that has been in existence for 50 years,” Lynch says. “We’re looking forward to the next 50 years and the changes that will bring to our community.”

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at or by calling 651-748-7824.


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