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).
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.
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:
“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.”
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.
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.