(The following information was excerpted from the ACHS program “History of Columbia Heights & Hilltop,” written by Sara Given)
For more information on the earlier history of this area, please see the History of Columbia Heights.
The City of Hilltop is Anoka County’s smallest city and has been a number of things before it became a town in its own right.
The area four blocks west of Central Ave began as the Dooies dairy farm. In the 1930’s, the farm was no longer running and the area became Hilltop Stables and Oak Grove Riding Academy. The riding academy repurposed the Dooies’ cow barn into horse stables for their business. Having a large stable of horses in the middle of the city caused some conflict. In 1945 the Oak Hill Riding Academy was under district court order “not to maintain a barn, corral and stable for horses in present numbers which habitually produce odors, gases and noise offensive to the sense of neighbors.” The young folk gathered to dance to a juke box at a large pavilion in the area. After the stable closed, the pavilion was used for auctions and flea markets.
The area’s Riding Stable slowly transformed into a section of trailer park housing. The exact date and owner of the original park is unknown, but in 1947, a trailer park with over 50 sites in unincorporated Fridley Township appears on aerial photographs.
1956 became a turning point. A number of residents of the area joined Les Johnson, owner of Trailer City Park, approached Columbia Heights requesting annexation. Columbia Heights declined—trailer parks were against city ordinances.
After this rejection, Les Johnson led the way to incorporation. On May 1, 1956 the vote for incorporation, which needed at least 100 votes, passed 137 to 24. The Anoka Union reported on the decision and described the new village for its readers: “Most of the area contains homes with only one major business, a trailer park, located within its boundaries. The area lies east of Columbia Heights and between 45th and 49th avenues NE, Central Ave NE and Monroe St NE.” Three days after the vote, all 668 residents of the area officially became the village of Hilltop. The city comprised 16 square blocks – or in a different measurement, 80 acres. For some perspective, the Mall of America covers about 94 acres of land. Hilltop was here to stay and in the next 10 years Hilltop’s population nearly tripled from 461 to 1398 people.
When Hilltop incorporated in May, it was bordered by Columbia Heights, but also by Fridley Township to the north. Later that month, Columbia Heights annexed land directly north of the new city. Hilltop had perfect timing – because by law no piece of land completely surrounded by another city can incorporate as its own city. Just a few weeks later and Hilltop wouldn’t have been able to exist.
History of Columbia Heights & Hilltop – coming soon!
Columbia Heights: Bootstrap Town, A Social History by Irene Parson (available in the ACHS Reading Room)
History of Columbia Heights & Hilltop