How did the city of Anoka’s population grow?

by Bob Kirchner

The city of Anoka has experienced population growth and decline since its founding. And housing construction is a factor in both.

The graph with this article shows that pattern of population change in the city since 1850.

During the settlement period (1850-1865) New England Yankees came to Anoka in search of opportunities. They found them by establishing Anoka’s lumber milling industry.  noka had a reason to be and housing and commercial development followed.

During the lumber boom period (1865-1885) Swedish immigrants were drawn to work in the Rum River pineries and Anoka’s lumber mills. The population exploded 445 percent from 849 to 4,629 people. A persistent housing shortage created a construction boom that continued nearly 20 years.

But by 1885 the timber ran out and the lumber industry collapsed. During the lumber bust period (1885-1900) Anoka experienced a long economic stagnation. Job losses translated into a population decline of 19 percent or 860 people.

Then the city went through a period of economic restructuring (1900-1920) becoming an agricultural market while attracting new industries. During these 20 years slow job growth produced only a 14 percent population increase.

In 1920 Federal Cartridge Company was established. Then Anoka’s fortunes caught a second wind.

The war and recovery period (1920-1950) ushered in sustained population growth. World War II brought government contracts and more jobs to Federal Cartridge. During this time, Anoka’s population rose 72 percent from 4,287 to 7,396. Housing construction surged again.

This pattern of growth accelerated during the suburbanization period (1950-1980). Following the war, many rural Minnesotans migrated to the metro area including Anoka. Anoka matured into a city with suburban style lots and homes.

The city doubled its geographic area through annexation. The population grew 104 percent reaching 15,110. Housing construction remained at a rapid pace to meet this strong demand.

During the metro expansion period (1980-2000) Anoka continued to grow, but more slowly. Metro migration along with global immigration brought a new mix of peoples to Anoka from places as close as northeast Minneapolis and as far as Africa and Asia.

Over the last 10 years (2000-2010) Anoka built out to its borders. No further annexation is possible. The population is aging in place although enlivened by metro migrants as well as immigrants from Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe.

During this last decade Anoka’s population declined 5.2 percent from 18,076 to 17,142. This is the first population loss in 100 years. This may be dubbed the redevelopment period.

So Anoka has developed for many reasons: lumber, agriculture, industry, migration and immigration.

What will be the next major stimulus for population growth?

If there is one it may come from housing development. Recent studies show Anoka lacks housing for young growing families, singles and seniors. It’s a matter of housing balance.

The challenge will be finding the right locations for single family homes and high quality apartments and condominiums.

But through good planning and thoughtful design, we can develop homes for more Anokans who may enjoy our small town way of life.

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