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New Brighton’s strategic location between two of Minnesota’s largest cities (St. Paul and Minneapolis) is responsible for most of the city’s growth. The railroad, which is located between the Twin Cities, also made the movement of goods and people between the three cities faster and more efficient.
The city used to be an Indian Village and was inhabited a hundred percent by Indians some of whom belong to the Tatonkawatakuna, a Sioux tribe subsidiary. The area was apparently made into a farming settlement with traces of oats and barley found in one of the fire pits. This was evident when tepee foundations and fire pits were found on the site in the 1890s. The establishment of a white settlement in the Long Lake area in 1735 paved the way for the population shift from pure Indians to non-Indians.
The city was named by its English founders after Brighton Massachusetts, which in turn, was named after a resort city in England.
As of the 2000 census, New Brighton is inhabited by 22,206 people and 5,903 families. It is a big enough community with a population density of 1,291.2 per square kilometer of land. Most of the population or 88.59% are Whites followed by Asians (4.38%) and African Americans (3.32%). The rest is a mixture of Hispanics or Latinos, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and other races.
Almost half of the 9,013 total households consist of married couples. The population is young with an average age of 37 years. An estimated 4% of the total population of the city lives below the poverty level.
Majority of the Minnesota towns used to be inhabited by Native Americans and New Brighton is no exception. Among the first inhabitants of the city are the Dakota and Ojibway tribes who settled along Rice Creek in Long Lake. The first recorded settlement in New Brighton was in 1858 and this came with a mission church, school and a general store.
However, one significant data which influenced the city’s history was the establishment in 1888 of the Minneapolis Stockyards and Packing Company. The company, which supplied home items in the area, was built in the land now known as New Brighton by Thomas Lowry (streetcar magnate), J.S. Pillsbury (word-famous flour miller), W.O. Dunwoody (industrialist), former Minneapolis mayor W.H. Eustis and Senator J.D. Washburn.
More businesses followed including the Twin City Packing Company (which was established in 1889), the iron mills of Harris Forge and Rolling Company, the lumber and yards business of Merriam-Barrows and several businesses in the Butcher’s Spur area including slaughtering houses, hide houses and rendering works. Commercial establishments like hotels followed and the most notable of which is the Cattlemen’s Hotel, a four-story hotel made of brick and was constructed at a cost of $35,000.
The city flourished with its incorporation in 1891. With 14 passenger trains passing along the city every day, the city’s growth was unstoppable. However, the demise of New Brighton’s cattle industry was a big setback and transformed the main livelihood of the people from cattle growing to farming. The city however still celebrates the New Brighton Stockyard days every year as a way of looking back at its colorful past.
New Brighton consists mainly of residential housing units for people with diverse incomes. The southern part of the town is the location of an upper middle class housing development known as Wexford Heights. The apartment sections are popularly called Polynesian. What makes the downtown area different from the other areas of the city is the presence of street lights that looks old-fashioned and are placed six meters apart.