The Blaine area was covered by a large glacier which shaped the current landscape during the late Wisconsinan glaciation. The land used to be covered by 200 feet deep river valleys. The valleys filled with sediment. One such valley ran under Lino Lakes running northeast to southwest. As the glaciers retreated, the water gathered into a lake that covered much of Anoka county. Huge ice chunks were left in the wake of the glacier. These ice chunks melted and formed depressions that filled with water. This became the chain of lakes between Lino Lakes and Circle Pines.
A survey was ordered for the land west of St. Croix River and east of the Mississippi River. Settlers were not allowed to occupy the land until after the survey was completed. The survey was completed and a description of Blaine was written. That description states: "This township presents a surface almost level to the eye of the beholder. It is dense marsh interspersed at intervals with numerous islands, small lakes, or ponds and tamarack swamps. The islands vary in size from one to ten acres and most of them covered by the thick brush and timber of various kinds. The water in the lakes and ponds is generally clear and cold and most of them have fish of various kinds. The margins of them are generally marshy and springy. The township is almost unacceptable for either men or beast except when frozen up and small portions of the northern portion of this town is barrens covered with short shrub and grasses and scattering white black and jack oak trees. The soil on the barrens is light-loose sand, third rate. A. J. Hewitt, Deputy Surveyor"
The first land owner in Blaine was Truman Smith. He was a St. Paul banker who was a speculator in real estate. Truman played an important role in preventing a bill from getting passed that would have moved the capital from St. Paul to St. Peter. The proposed move was supported by the state congress and the governor because many owned land in St. Peter. A move would have surely increased the value of the land they owned. The bill was stopped by using procedural delays and then hidden in the top back room of the Fuller House Hotel until a move was no longer possible. Speculators hoped to earn a profit by buying land cheap and selling it high. Truman purchased the land for $1.25 per acre. Within a few years, the prices in the area rose to $15.00 per acre.
Phillip Laddy was the first person to live in Blaine. He moved to Laddie Lake (the lake was named after him) in 1862 but died soon after. In 1865, Greenberry Chambers became the first permanent settler. He was a slave born in Kentucky. He farmed and fought in the Civil War. After the Civil War, slaves were freed in 1865 with the passage of the 13th Amendment. Kentucky was a hostile place for black Americans as vigilantes were terrorizing them. Greenberry chambers moved to roughly the location of the Centennial High School campus.
Before 1877, Blaine was a part of Anoka county. The landowners took action and in 1877 the new Blaine township was approved by the county and the state. During this time, the Blaine township population was 128. The township was named after James Gillespie Blaine. James was a prominent Republican statesman from Maine. He was a member of congress and the speaker of the house. He was also a senator and secretary of state. He ran for president in 1884 but lost. By 1900, the population of Blaine was 374.
James Elwell strung some of Minnesota’s first phone lines. He ran a line between his Golden Lake and Ham Lake Stock Farms.
Frances Golden was the first school teacher for school district #48. Classes were held in his home. In 1880, a one room school house was completed, and 12 students enrolled. It was originally located at the intersection of Golden Lake Road and East and West Golden Lake Roads. It was later moved to north of Lovell Road and Lexington Avenue. The building was moved by rolling it on logs pulled by oxen.
When settler’s first arrived, Blaine was too wet to farm. This made it near worthless. In 1884, Anoka’s first public ditch was created in the western part of Centerville. More ditches were dug which drained the land. James Elwell purchased land in 1996 and built two giant farms. One was in Ham Lake and the second was in the Blaine. He purchased 52,700 acres and dug 200 miles of ditches to make the land farmable. James then built an 8-mile road between his two farms, known as the Elwell Grade. This road became Lexington Avenue. It originally stretched from Lake Drive to Ham Lake.
A wooden church was built on the western end of Centerville Township. The church was destroyed by heavy winds and rebuilt in 1897. Father Joseph Goiffon served the church. Father Goiffon lost his right leg from the knee down and his left foot at the ankle. They were frozen when he was caught in a blizzard for four days. He sliced open his dead horse to find shelter inside its corpse but couldn’t because it was too frozen. After his death in 1910, parishioners retained bits of his wooden legs as relics of his work with St. Joseph’s parish.
In 1892, a railroad was projected to go through the city of Blaine. The proposal was voted down limiting potential industry in Blaine.
After the formation of the Blaine township there was no official meeting place. Meetings were held in homes and eventually a school house. After being defeated in 1892, a city hall was approved in 1900. It was then built in 1901 for $350 at the intersection of Radisson Road and 101st. The city hall burned down and a second was built on 109th and Radisson Road.
Alcohol was outlawed in the United States during Prohibition. Crime rose during this time. About half of the criminal cases in Anoka county during this time were related to alcohol. Most cases ended with a guilty plea and a sentence of a $100 to $500 fine and 30 to 90 days in jail. Despite being illegal, alcohol was being made in Blaine in places like the Lovell farm, on the island in Peltier Lake, and on the James Elwell Golden Lake farm.
The Messina gang was believed to be in control of the alcohol production for St. Paul. They had 12 alcohol production plants including one in Blaine located at the Golden Lake Farm originally built by James Elwell. Willis Goff worked for the Messina gang. Willis Goff was arrested in a raid of one of the Messina’s facilities. The gang operated on the principle that arrested members would be taken care of financially. But Willis Goff didn’t receive his payments so he threatened to divulge information to federal agents. Later, federal agents raided more of the Messina’s facilities. The gang became convinced that Willis Goff was helping the agents. Then on August 29, they lured Willis Goff to the Golden Lake farm and shot him twice in the head. Heavily decomposed, his body was found on September 12 northwest of the intersection of Lexington and Lake Drive. Members of the Messina gang were convicted of crimes related to alcohol production but no one was convicted for the murder.
Twin tornadoes hit Minnesota. They started in North Minneapolis and Lake Minnetonka then moved northeast through Blaine and up to Forest Lake. Seventeen people died and 160 people were injured. A mother and her child were thrown into Rice Lake by the tornado. They were remarkably unhurt. Katie Frischmon saw the tornadoes coming from the intersection of Lake Drive and Lexington Avenue. She states, “I saw it coming and it seemed the whole southwest end of Minnesota was about to be piled right on top of us. It made a hissing sound which grew louder and louder as it drew nearer.”
The United States Highway system was officially adopted in November 1926. At the time of the adoption, highway 8 ran from Forest Lake to Wisconsin and beyond. In 1930, highway 8 was continued on to Minneapolis. This road was the predecessor to interstate 35W. Prior to the road being paved, it was a sandy rut. It ran from the corner of Lexington and Lowell Road directly east to Elwell’s farm, then to the northeast. Done by horse drawn scrappers, the road was improved to pave three lanes with a middle lane known as the suicide passing lane. When completed, interstate 35W replaced highway 8. The old highway 8 road is now Lake Drive.
In 1945, Valdermar Peterson was lying in the shade at the picnic ground of Golden Lake when an idea struck him. His idea was to build a cooperative community in the southeast corner of the Blaine township. He was frustrated by what he thought were social and economic injustices to the common man in a capitalist economic system. The homeowners would each own part of the association developing the community. A cooperative shopping center was built with a food store, restaurant, meat market, hardware store, and a service station. The community also built a three-room school house, a post office, and a credit union. The cooperative ran into financial and organizational difficulties and had to increase fees. A group of residents, discussing what could be done, decided to petition to incorporate the community into a city. The vote passed 89 to 5. On the day of the vote, Valdermar Peterson died but his vision endured.
Lexington is a small city next to Circle Pines that is in the former Blaine Township. Tensions grew between the areas of Lexington and Circle Pines. The Lexington area was populated before Circle Pines with people desperate in the World War II housing shortage. The housing was subpar with some houses said to have been put up so quickly that cement slabs were poured directly over core stubble. The people of Lexington saw Circle Pine’s cooperative ideals as socialistic. There were some talks on creating one city but residents on both sides saw that as repugnant. On May 5th, an election was held. The proposal to incorporate Lexington passed 93 to 61.
In 1939, the University of Minnesota established a pilot training program in response to a threat of world war. They purchased land and built an airport at the intersection of Highway 8 and County Road J in 1941. The 260-acre site lacked room for expansion, so discussions were held in 1948 to relocate. 1,200 acres of land were purchased on the southern tip of Blaine township and the new airport opens in 1952. The airport was named James Field in honor of Phillip James, director of the reliever airports for the Metropolitan Airports Commission. Flight training was discontinued in 1989 and the land was purchased by a Minneapolis businessman, Greg Herrick in 1996.
With the incorporation of Circle Pines, Lexington, and the threat of land being lost to Spring Lake Park, the citizens of the township decide to incorporate. On January 28, Blaine was incorporated and Alfred Bernstein became the first mayor.
Housing developments sprang up. On May 1, Vern Donnay presented the village council a preliminary layout of land for 1,500 houses to expand eastward. The plans included layouts for parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, and a baseball diamond.
The first Anoka County library was opened during 1958, in a rented space at 8409 Center Drive in Spring Lake Park. The city of Blaine and the city of Coon Rapids bid to relocate the library. Due to the central location and the low price, Blaine won. The Northtown Library continues to sit at 707 Highway 10 in Blaine.
Earliest records indicate that the land located at 10100 Central Ave NE once belonged to Irv Braverman. This mid-sized theater, with the capacity to hold 550 vehicles, had one screen and was open seasonally. The sound was transmitted by AM and FM radio. In 2002 the theater was demolished. What once was the entrance to the theater is now the entrance to a housing development.
In 1965, California real estate developer, Robert Muir, purchased 137 acres for a mall. He chose the location after flying his helicopter and seeing the major roads intersecting the area. It took $30 million and 500 local workers to build the 900,000 square foot mall. Once the first phase was completed, there was an impressive grand opening that included TV stars, singers, local mayors and the governor of Minnesota. The building had a sunken aquarium area, a center court fountain, and a 30-foot replica of the Titanic from the 1953 movie.
In 1987, the state legislator passed legislation that created the Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission. As part of the initiative, $14.7 million was appropriated for the construction of the National Sports Center. Once built, it became the world’s largest amateur sports facility. It has hosted United States Olympic Trial events, world class weightlifting, and it’s the location for soccer’s USA CUP. In the first year, the facility welcomed 386,000 visitors. Its growth has exploded, and it welcomes ten times more visitors just two decades later.
In 1997, the groundwork began to design a new city hall. The building was completed in 2002 at a cost of approximately $15,000,000. It faces the site of the old town hall, located on 109th near Radisson Road.