Main Street – Chisago City and Lindstrom

Chisago City is, not surprisingly, a City in Chisago County, and has just under 5,000 people. Just to the west Lindstrom has just over 4,400 people. Neither of these cities however, possess the County Seat, which is the tiny Center City, with 628 people. All three cities share US Highway 8 (Lake Boulevard) as their main street (map).

Life is Great on Highway 8

Life is Great on Highway 8

While these towns are part of the larger 19 county metropolitan area, the driver of the economy is not what happens on a daily basis in the Cities some 45 minutes away, but rather local activities that tend to interact with the cities on a less frequent cycle. Certainly there is a resort aspect, as the Lakes in particular are important for Fishing and Boating. The Hazelden Center for addiction treatment is located in Center City.

Vilhelm Moberg in Chisago City

Vilhelm Moberg in Chisago City

Nearby to the east is the Franconia Sculpture Park, far more interesting than the more famous establishment sculpture garden in Minneapolis (flickr set).

We arrive at Chisago City first when traveling east-bound from I-35W (flickr set). The first thing you notice is the giant Adirondack Chair beckoning, assuring “Life is Great on Highway 8!”. Even if it makes us blue, all that rhymes is very true. The second thing you notice is a sculpture of a tall man and his bicycle. This is Vilhelm Moberg (1898-1973), who explored the area in 1948 by bicycle. The plaque says:

Chisago Drug

Chisago Drug

“Vilhelm Moberg was one of the foremost Swedish authors of the 20th century. His most famous characters, Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson, were representative of the over 1.2 million Swedish emigrants that landed on our shores between 1846 and 1930. During the summer of 1948 he stayed in Chisago City and explored the area by bicycle. That research helped shape his most famous work — the epic tetralogy “The Emigrants,” “Unto a Good Land,” “The Settlers,” and “The Last Letter Home.” In Sweden, thanks to Moberg’s literary works, this land of Kichi-Saga — the Chisago Lakes Area — is probably the best-known area of the United States.”

Vilcommen till Lindstrom

Valkommen till Lindstrom

It does not mention Moberg committed suicide by drowning in 1973. Though I had never heard of him (not Swedish enough I guess), his most famous work has been compared to the Norwegian Ole Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth, which I have.

Though Chisago City is nominally larger than Lindstrom, I am surprised to read that, given the relative sizes of their downtowns. Lindstrom’s downtown is significant larger.

Lindstrom (flickr set) is more clearly oriented to Highway 8. Chisago City is to the side, presumably because the road was widened and rerouted, while Center City is aligned North-South to the north of Highway 8. Highway 8 has been converted to a one-way pair through town, though the east-bound souther part of that pair seems to be more of the main street, while the west-bound side has fewer buildings but still has parking access. There is parallel parking on both sides of Highway 8, which is 2 through lanes serving long distance traffic. This is not the ideal urban environment, with large trucks moving through town at a relatively high speed. However efforts have been made to increase the attractiveness, with new lighting, new sidewalks, and new plantings. Our photos are from Sunday morning, so parking was not at a premium.

The Flag of Sweden

The Flag of Sweden

There are some wonderful bakeries and meat stores here (with the iconic sausage on the roof as a distinguishing feature), as well as tourist serving antiques shops. The water tower is tea pot shaped. The flag of Sweden features prominently on the side of one of the buildings.

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8 Responses to Main Street – Chisago City and Lindstrom

  1. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele July 14, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Any idea why a one-way couplet was chosen rather than a standard three-lane section with a CLTL?

    • Froggie July 14, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Looking back through my notes, some of the reasons cited:

      – Wider sidewalks, especially the inclusion of bumpouts at pedestrian crossings
      – On-street parking
      – Peds would only have to look one direction when crossing.
      – Addition of sidewalks along some blocks of 1st Ave that did not have sidewalks previously (verified on Google Earth imagery).

      It should also be noted that the old configuration WAS a CLTL. The stretch through Lindstrom also had the highest crash rate in the corridor, which is a big reason why MnDOT opposed keeping the “status quo”.

      • Adam Miller
        Adam Miller July 14, 2014 at 10:18 am #

        Also, it used to be pretty rough to try to get through there on busy holiday weekends.

        If memory serves, the pair was new last summer (maybe it was the summer before), which is why the eastbound portion looks more like a main street – not long ago, it was.

  2. Froggie July 14, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    Correct in that the eastbound lanes through Lindstrom is the original Highway 8 alignment.

    It should also be noted that most of Highway 8 through both Chisago City and Lindstrom was built on top of an old Northern Pacific rail spur that went to Taylors Falls, but was abandoned several decades ago. The pre-Highway 8 road alignment through Chisago City appears to have followed Stinson Ave, but was immediately parallel to the railroad through Lindstrom. This may partially explain the early development patterns. The rail alignment (parts of which can still be spotted on Google Earth) also explains why Shafer is all north of Highway 8. Meanwhile, the pre-automobile road between Center City and Taylors Falls generally followed 310th St.

  3. Froggie July 14, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    BTW, the Highway 8 chairs apparently have their own website.

  4. Monte Castleman July 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    There was a 1990s plan to build a new expressway south of the lakes to get the through traffic out of the built-up areas, US 8 is one of the more heavily traveled and dangerous two lane roads in the state. That plan got put into a deep freeze and we’re seeing incremental improvements here and there to the existing road instead.

  5. Alex July 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    Giants in the Earth is better. Certainly the four-book Emigrants series is more epic, with a wider sweep, but Moberg was less familiar with the reality of North America so the geography and history is a bit fanciful. Also Moberg’s characters are drawn more broadly and he has more of a tendency for melodrama, whereas Rolvaag had a gift for nuance both in plotting and characterization.

  6. Dave P July 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm #

    My hometown! Some tidbits to clarify. Chisago City was always smaller than Lindstrom until the housing boom, they annex a huge portion of what was formerly Wyoming Township. Also, the “Downtown” of Chisago City moved from Old Towne Road (CR24) /280th area near Zion Lutheran Chuch to it’s current location when the railroad came through. However, Lindstrom was in it’s current location. Both contribute to the different feel of the areas.

    Regarding Moberg, anyone who grew up in Chisago would know an old house right off the main drag had a sign which proudly proclaimed: “Vilhem Moberg slept here”.

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