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La Crescent
Nickname(s): 
"Apple Capital of Minnesota"
Location of La Crescentwithin Houston and Winona Countiesin the state of Minnesota
Location of La Crescent
within Houston and Winona Counties
in the state of Minnesota
Country United States
State Minnesota
Counties Houston, Winona
Government
 • Type Mayor – Council
Area
 • Total 3.82 sq mi (9.89 km2)
 • Land 3.32 sq mi (8.60 km2)
 • Water 0.50 sq mi (1.29 km2)
Elevation
679 ft (207 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 5,276
 • Density 1,513.85/sq mi (584.43/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
55947
Area code(s) 507
FIPS code 27-33866
GNIS feature ID 0646292
Website City of La Crescent

La Crescent is a city in Houston and Winona counties in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The population was 4,830 at the 2010 census.

La Crescent is located in the northeast portion of Houston County; the northern edge of the city falls into Winona County. The city is known as the "Apple Capital of Minnesota" because John S. Harris planted the first apple trees in the midwest here, resulting in many orchards in the present-day city. It is recognized as a 'Tree City' by the Arbor Day Foundation, and a 'Minnesota GreenStep City' by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

History

Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, La Crescent, Minnesota is surrounded by beautiful bluffs with spectacular views of the river. Humans have inhabited this area, which is abundant with wildlife, for thousands of years. The most recent inhabitants before the arrival of white settlers were the Dakota Indians, who were a branch of the Sioux, and the Winnebago.

Following the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Nathan Boone, youngest son of Daniel Boone was among the early surveyors of this area. The various Indian tribes who had lived here were relocated in the 1840s to accommodate white settlement.

La Crescent was founded in 1851 by Peter Cameron and was originally called "Camerons". Peter and his wife, Emma, were two of the town's most colorful characters. Peter tried to dig a canal to change the flow of the Mississippi River so it would flow closer to La Crescent and bypass La Crosse, Wisconsin across the river. He died 10 weeks before its scheduled completion in 1857, and the canal was never finished, although the canal can still be seen in aerial photographs of the city. The Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson lived in La Crescent prior to 1872, when he moved westward to Denver and later Alaska.

The second name of La Crescent was "Manton", named by William and Harvey Gillett, after they cleared the downtown area for settlement for Peter Cameron. In quick succession, the name of the town was changed again by the somewhat unscrupulous Kentucky Land Company, which was a land speculation company. They wanted a more romantic-sounding name for the town to attract settlers and came up with "La Crescent", after the bend or "crescent" shape of the Mississippi River around the town. La Crescent incorporated in 1857.

John S. Harris arrived in La Crescent in 1856 and soon gave the town its identity of "Apple Capital of Minnesota", a title that the city copyrighted in 2002. Despite the belief "by 99 out of 100” people that apples could not grow in Minnesota", Harris planted his first apple trees here in 1857 and experimented with them until he grew trees hardy enough to withstand the severe Minnesota winters. He planted thousands of apple trees and hundreds of varieties, a full half of which he said were complete and total failures. Harris became known as "Father of the Orchardists" in Minnesota and was also a founding member of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. Since 1948 La Crescent has celebrated this apple heritage annually with a weekend festival known as Applefest.

La Crescent has entertained a number of businesses throughout its history, but the one that has endured the longest is the apple industry. Around the 1940s La Crescent had about 40 small orchards in and around the city. Although the number of orchards has dwindled to less than a dozen, the area is about the same, as the orchards have been expanded in the bluffs farther away from the city. La Crescent grows gourmet apple varieties not found in most other places. Eighty percent of its apples are sold in Minnesota, although they are also exported to surrounding states and Canada.

There are markets in La Crescent which sell honey and other organic products, as well as apples. There are many outdoor activities to do in the area, such as biking, hiking, fishing, bird watching, skiing, snowmobiling, and fourwheeling.

Geography

La Crescent MN swing bridge opened to river traffic
La Crescent MN swing bridge opened to river traffic

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.47 square miles (8.99 km2); 2.94 square miles (7.61 km2) is land and 0.53 square miles (1.37 km2) is water.

La Crescent sits 3 miles across the Mississippi River from Onalaska, Wisconsin and the northern part of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Winona, Minnesota is 21 miles to the north of La Crescent. It is the largest city in Houston County and the second largest in Winona County.

Bluffs

La Crescent is known for having many bluffs compared to other cities in Minnesota. The city is situated on the side of a large bluff, with other large hills within the city. Since La Crescent is below the normal level of the rest of the area, the bluffside shields it from some of the harsh winds and tornadoes that other areas on consistently flat ground experience.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 380
1880 326 −14.2%
1910 372
1920 373 0.3%
1930 520 39.4%
1940 815 56.7%
1950 1,229 50.8%
1960 2,624 113.5%
1970 3,296 25.6%
1980 3,674 11.5%
1990 4,311 17.3%
2000 4,923 14.2%
2010 4,830 −1.9%
2020 5,276 9.2%
US Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 4,830 people, 2,012 households, and 1,370 families in the city. The population density was 1,642.9 inhabitants per square mile (634.3/km2). There were 2,126 housing units at an average density of 723.1 per square mile (279.2/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.5% White, 0.8% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.1% of the population.

There were 2,012 households, of which 30.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.2% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 2.9% had a male householder with no wife present, and 31.9% were non-families. 27.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.86.

The median age in the city was 42.8 years. 23.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 6.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.7% were from 25 to 44; 30.4% were from 45 to 64; and 16.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.

Education

The La Crescent–Hokah Public Schools is the city's largest public school district, and Kevin Cardille is superintendent (May 2020). It includes La Crescent–Hokah Elementary School and La Crescent–Hokah Secondary School. The other public school district, La Crescent Montessori Academy & STEM school, serves grades pre-k-12th grade under Director Melissa Johnson. Other educational opportunities include the private school Crucifixion Catholic Elementary. The La Crescent Public Library serves the local community.

Infrastructure

Transportation

U.S. Highways 14 and 61; and Minnesota State Highway 16 serve as main routes in the community. The northern edge of La Crescent is skirted by Interstate 90 and I-90 Mississippi River Bridge. The Great River Road, a collection of state and local roads that follow the course of the Mississippi River, passes through La Crescent via US 61 and a short piece of MN 16.

A commuter bus service to La Crosse is operated by La Crosse MTU and has 13 trips daily through La Crescent.

A pedestrian pathway known as the Wagon Wheel Trail connects La Crescent and most notably Mississippi River Trail to La Crosse and several trails in the Wisconsin bike trail system, notably the Great River Trail.

Notable people

  • Connor Franta (born 1992), YouTuber, entrepreneur, entertainer, and writer
  • Eriah Hayes (born 1988), professional hockey player
  • Sheldon Jackson (1834–1909), Presbyterian minister, missionary, political leader
  • Marguerite Kerrigan (born 1931), All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player
  • Peter Pernin Pastor (1878-1886), survivor and memoirist of the Peshtigo fire
  • Michelle Rifenberg (born 1957), Minnesota politician
  • Ken Tschumper (born 1950), Minnesota politician and farmer
  • Al W. Wieser, Jr. (born 1949), Minnesota state legislator and businessman
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