Richfield was the first town in Hennepin County to be permanently settled when settlers who came to the Richfield area in 1852 found fertile soil, a fast-running stream (Minnehaha Creek) and abundant unclaimed land. Once called Richland, they soon settled on the name Richfield in recognition of the fertile farm fields.
Farming ruled as the occupation of choice in Richfield until the mid-1940s. Dairies and truck farms were common, and the area produced the World Champion Holstein dairy cow (Dutchess Skylark Ormsby) in 1915 whose milk had the highest butterfat content—a title held for six consecutive years until 1921. This farm was in the area of 73rd Street and Lyndale Avenue.
As World War II ended, farms gave way to housing developments as returning veterans streamed into Richfield to begin their family lives in new homes away from the crowded city. Between 1940 and 1950, Richfield’s population grew from 3,778 to 17,502. In a few years it would double again as population figures stabilized close to 35,000. Richfield remains a highly desirable place for families and businesses to plant their roots. In 1955, Look magazine named Richfield an “All-American City.” In 2008, Richfield was named by CNNMoney.com as one of 100 America’s best small cities to live in.
Richfield is fortunate to have several outstanding examples of early homes still well maintained and in solid structural shape. One of the earliest examples has been preserved by the Richfield Historical Society as the Riley Bartholomew House Museum. This house, built on the shores of Wood Lake in 1852-53 by Riley Bartholomew, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bartholomew, a former General in the Ohio Militia, came westward with his family to establish residency in 1852. In subsequent years, he became the Richfield Justice of the Peace, a Minnesota State Senator and was one of the people who founded the first school in Richfield (Wood Lake School) and Richfield Methodist Church.
A History Center is housed on the grounds of the Bartholomew House and serves as the focal point for Richfield history, encompassing its 150 years. The center is open on Monday and Wednesday afternoons and on the second Saturday of each month. Other hours may be arranged. The center offers changing displays of Richfield history. Tours of the Bartholomew House are available during open hours or by appointment. An extensive history volume titled, “Richfield – Minnesota’s Oldest Suburb” was published in 2008 and is available for purchase. For information, contact the center at 612-798-6140 or see the website at www.richfieldhistory.org.