University Archives

Cultural Geography of St. Cloud State

In 1869, St. Cloud was a small frontier town split into three, yet the people of those communities came together to raise funds for a state normal school to be established on the banks of the Mississippi River. Originally located in the Stearns House, a frontier hotel, the school grew quickly and moved into a new nearby building in 1874. The neighborhood began to change as settlers came to St. Cloud and the campus matched that transformation. St. Cloud State grew as the city itself grew. Change came quickly over the years and the details of that change are now mostly forgotten. This research project involved an in-depth collection review and is intended to help document and remember the transformation of the campus, from what it was yesterday to what it is today.

A major highlight from this research includes how the neighborhood changed in the 1960s as St. Cloud State rapidly grew physically and academically. Architectural drawings of buildings illustrate where homes were located and how the proposed building fit into that property. Images provide glimpses of homes that stood in the neighborhood, including those of a faculty member leading ducks to the Mississippi River from Barden Park. Administrative records reveal some of the reasons decisions were made to place buildings where they are now located.

We created a bibliography in a single Excel spreadsheet that captures the changing story of campus (what, how, and why), leading researchers to the stories they will be able to tell.  The spreadsheet lists materials (Images, Text, and Maps), where they were found (physically and digital, if scanned) at the St. Cloud State University Archives or Stearns History Museum, physical location on campus, and a description that helps put the historic information into context. The bibliography is a living document that will be added to as the story of the development of the St. Cloud State campus continues to unfold.

Locations on campus referred to their plat as surveyed in the 19th century. The current St. Cloud State campus stretches into three separate plats – Curtis, Brott and Smith’s Addition, and East St. Cloud. Maps found in the John D. Morgan papers at the St. Cloud State University Archives were used to identify place by plat. The maps for this project are located online at:

Not all of the present-day campus was included in this project, especially on the east side of the Mississippi River, particularly George W. Friedrich Park and Talahi Woods.

For this project, St. Cloud State campus is defined as:

North Campus
From the Mississippi River west to 5th Avenue South between 4th Street South and 10th Street South (University Drive), including in Curtis Survey: Hotel Complex, Park, and Blocks  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, (Park – Barden), 35, 36. 

South Campus
From the Mississippi River west to 5th Avenue South between 10th Street South (University Drive) and 13th Street South, including in Curtis Survey: Blocks 13, 14, 22, 30, 37; in Brott & Smith’s Addition Blocks 1, 2, 3, 16, 17, 18, 19

East Campus – from 12th Avenue SE west to 10th Avenue SE between 13th Street SE to Michigan Avenue (University Drive SE) including in East St. Cloud: South half of Union Park, Blocks 83, 84, 95, 96


legacy-logo.jpgThis project has been financed in part with funds provided by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.