North Oaks… unique community that was James J Hill’s farm and country estate

Perhaps one of the most unique suburban communities in the Twin Cities is North Oaks, about 15 minutes north of St. Paul. Both a farm and country estate on land purchased by railroad magnate James J. Hill in 1883, it was a working farm that gained a reputation for breeding exceptional cattle. It was also where his family would spend summers in their grand home on the shores of Pleasant Lake, and the source of a daily cart which delivered vegetables, fruit, milk, butter, eggs and fresh flowers to their St. Paul mansion. The site of the Hill estate on the southwest corner of Pleasant Lake is now an open-air museum with only 3 of the original 40 buildings remaining.

North oaks - map

North Oaks Farm was owned by the family until the 1950s, when they decided to divide the land into parcels for a carefully planned community with an emphasis on preserving its natural beauty. It is said that Hill’s grandson helped survey most of the early lots himself and would sometimes alter the path of the a road to save a single tree…no grid-like street patterns here.

When you enter North Oaks you  may be surprised that instead of a welcome sign, you are greeted by a no trespassing sign. This is perhaps the most unique feature of North Oaks… you are to enter the community by invitation only. The city owns no property and does not provide city sewer and water. It is a privately owned community with all the roads owned by the residents whose lots extend into the middle of the road. Each property has its own private well and septic system.

North oaks - photos

The natural beauty remains, with exceptionally large wooded lots, significant permanent conservation easements, and miles of natural trails groomed year round by the North Oaks Homeowners Association for hiking, biking, running or skiing. In addition to lakes for swimming, canoeing, sailing and kayaking, North Oaks also has a golf course, tennis courts and recreational areas for activities such as hockey and skating, baseball and soccer/rugby.

Sharlene Hensrud, RE/MAX Resultsshensrud@homesmsp.com

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