West St. Paul police officers are wearing their pride in their city on their chests.
In honor of the city's 125th anniversary in 2014, Police Chief Bud Shaver had replica badges made from a photo from the early 1900s. Officers received them at a department meeting last month and will wear them on their uniform jacket or shirt for the rest of the year.
The photo, circa 1910, actually was found in the archives of the St. Paul Police Department, then given to West St. Paul. Shaver said it reminds him of "an old-school marshal's badge."
"I asked the council, 'Can I get these anniversary badges to show a little pride in where we come from?' "
The city's anniversary will be marked with a "birthday party" on May 17.
And speaking of history, a look back through time reveals the answer to many people's biggest question about the city: Why is it called West St. Paul when it's directly south of St. Paul?
Well, because at one time West St. Paul was part of the city of South St. Paul. While the eastern part of that city was associated with the growing business of packing plants and other industries, the western part was a community of small farms. After disagreements about taxes, policing and other matters, the west side eventually broke away and was incorporated in 1889 as the city of West St. Paul.
But let's back up a little. Even before that, West St. Paul was originally founded in 1858 and elected its own mayor and City Council. It even issued its own scrip, or "certificates of indebtedness," which entitled the bearer to $2.
Unfortunately, by 1862, the city was bankrupt and the land reverted to the old West St. Paul Township. Twenty-seven years later, after having been briefly absorbed into South St. Paul, it was reincorporated.
Although the city is fundamentally square, it does include a 40-acre knob that juts into St. Paul.
That parcel belonged to Philip Crowley, the Dakota County superintendent of schools, West St. Paul Township clerk, schoolteacher and alderman on the first City Council of South St. Paul in 1887 when it still included West St. Paul's boundaries. He led the move to form a separate city of West St. Paul and was its first mayor from 1889 to 1891.
He wanted his land to be part of his new city, thus the boundaries were drawn the way they were.
As the city celebrates its quasquicentennial in 2014, leaders are looking for ways to revitalize the suburb of almost 20,000. Plans are underway to revitalize Robert Street and the Smith Avenue corridor.
West St. Paul plans to mark the anniversary with a celebration and open house at City Hall on May 14 and a birthday party on May 17 at the Dodge Nature Center in conjunction with the annual West St. Paul Days. There will be movies in the park this summer and other events throughout the year.
For more information, see www.cityofwsp.org.