NORTH OAKS, Minn. - Among the facts and figures in the U.S. Census bureau data is each state's most affluent city, which in Minnesota isn’t Orono or Edina or Wayzata.
It's North Oaks, a St Paul suburb that in the 1800s was a hobby farm for railroad tycoon James J Hill. Today, those original buildings are still among the city's 1,200 homes, where the median price is about $600,000.
“Houses on Lake Minnetonka can sell for many times more than what the average house sells for in North Oaks,” said Patrick Rehkamp, a data reporter at the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. “But the collective as far as what houses sell for in North Oaks is pretty high.”
That's just one measure used to rank cities, along with things like income and education. But what that data doesn't say is just how exclusive North Oaks is. Its 5,000 residents own all the land—including the streets—with guard shacks and just four entrances.
“North Oaks is one of the few private communities in the state,” Rehkamp said.
That's one reason resident Kathy Emmons says she loves it, saying that privacy gives the town a sense of community while offering lots of recreation open only to those who live here.
“it's fun to live in nature,” said Emmons, who is the president of the North Oaks Home Owners’ Association. “We've got the trails and the beach and soccer and tennis lessons and sailing lessons. So I can see why a family would find this attractive.”
Many residents have been well known, including former Vice President Walter Mondale, NBA star Kevin McHale, and several Fortune 500 CEOs. Minnesotans who live in the public eye but reside in a very private town.
“It’s a whole different kind of a pace,” Emmons said.
Nationally, North Oaks ranks as the 146th most affluent U.S. city.