When University of Minnesota graduate student Melanie Firestone moved from North Carolina to the Twin Cities, she assumed that Minneapolis and St. Paul have always had an amicable relationship. But she quickly learned that the two cities really were like siblings in that they often fought — a lot.
“It just kind of got me thinking: What started this rivalry and is it still alive and well, or has it faded over time?” Firestone asked. “It seems like there was this sort of ingrained sort of hatred between the two.”
Hatred might be a stretch. But for longtime Minnesotans, the rivalry probably seems unending. Minneapolis residents like to knock St. Paul for being a sleepy city, with few restaurants open late at night. St. Paulites complain about Minneapolis flaunting its perceived superiority. Remember in 2018 when CNN listed Minnesota’s capital as a “neighborhood” of Minneapolis? That didn’t go over well.
To get to the bottom of it all, Firestone enlisted the help of Curious Minnesota, our community-driven reporting project fueled by questions from readers.
It turns out Minneapolis and St. Paul’s neighborly competition goes back more than a century. In 1890, the cities were nearly identical in size. That year’s census would establish one of them as the largest city in Minnesota, and things got out of hand pretty fast.
Both cities inflated their populations, with Minneapolis documenting deceased citizens from its cemeteries and St. Paul recording hundreds of imagined citizens living in the Union Depot, which Virginia Brainard Kunz documented in a 1990 edition of Ramsey County History.
Some current city leaders argue that the rivalry no longer exists, and if it does, it’s only for laughs and to the Twin Cities’ benefit.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey prefers to emphasize what he calls the two cities’ sense of “coopertition,” meaning that Minneapolis and St. Paul do compete, but they join forces to create one strong region. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter declined to comment on the rivalry, but his constituents have no problem standing up for him and the city he represents. Last fall, shortly before President Donald Trump spoke at his Target Center rally, Twitter users shared glowing posts ogling Frey after he exchanged barbs with the president. St. Paulites were quick to point out that Frey wasn’t Minnesota’s only attractive mayor, with one tweeting, “St. Paul’s is also hot.”
For former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer, who held his position for almost 14 years, remnants of the rivalry still remain in his everyday life. From his room window in St. Paul, Latimer, 84, can see the expansive Minneapolis skyline.
He said he is thankful he has blinds.
“It’s pretty easy for me to recapture serenity by closing them,” he said in jest.
While the former mayor likes to joke about the rivalry now, it hasn’t always been a laughing matter, especially in the sports world. The arrival of the Twins franchise in the early 1960s essentially dissolved the Minneapolis Millers and thus its rivalry with the St. Paul Saints. At first, locals suggested naming the team the Minnehaha Twins, with “Minne” representing Minneapolis and “haha” for St. Paul, according to Kunz.
For longtime businessman Jay Pfaender, the rivalry is driven much more by commerce than anything else. Pfaender said that when recruiters attempt to attract East or West Coast business owners to Minnesota, they often highlight aspects of Minneapolis and St. Paul, not one of the cities over the other.
“We’ve become Twin Cities-centric, and if you’re Twin Cities-centric the rivalry goes away,” Pfaender said.
If that’s the case, maybe this rivalry is really just healthy competition that pushes both cities to become better — which is a sentiment that real “twins” often have for one another.
Michelle Griffith (email@example.com) is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.
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