The Central Minnesota
Sustainable Development Plan



Our Story

Population:  573              

Median Age:  36.7

Median Income:  $28,889

Area:  2 sq. miles= .52 sq miles water/1.48 sq miles land

Most Common Industry:  Retail trade, Other Services, Manufacturing



With the discovery of high grade iron ore around the Cuyuna Lakes area, many new villages with industry related names such as Orelands, Klondike, Steeleton, Iron Hub and Manganese appeared, and disappeared.  Ironton has survived to this day.  The town, established in 1911, grew because of its proximity to the mines.  It was a well planned and laid out community with wide streets, residential sidewalks and curbs and park space.   The wealth of the mining revenue stimulated a thriving business community; Ironton welcomed a variety of newly arrived European immigrants seeking work and a new home in America.  Sturdy and sound infrastructure was built.  Many examples endure today including the Spina Hotel built in 1917 and Ironton City Hall, both of which are on the National Historic Registery, and played an important part in the social lives of early residents.  Many Balkan descendants still think of Ironton as "home", including Miles Lord, Minnesota State Attorney General during the Orville Freeman administration and Minnesota Supreme Court Judge.



Ironton remembers the past while planning for the future.  Mining departed in the 1980’s leaving a struggling community to address life after mining.  Like the iron it mined, Ironton attracted (like a magnet) a melting pot of families.  It continues to be a great place to raise a family with wide open spaces for their homes and businesses, great parks, great values in housing, and a school district that serves grades K – 12.  The community is working together to reinvent and build on opportunities that are unique to the area.  One resident said” No one is going to do it for us, so we do it ourselves”.

After the mines closed, the area adjacent to Ironton, proved to be rich in recreational opportunities like scuba diving, mountain biking, kayaking, skiing and bird watching.  But it is the Hallett Center, Cuyuna Range Medical Center (CRMC) and Graphic Packaging that draws in visitors and residents from all over the world.  Community members are most proud of how they collectively drew on their “Can Do” attitude to raise the funds to build the Hallett Center which enriches their lives through health and wellness.  The CRMC provides progressive rural health care and attracts high-quality health professionals.  The community also relied heavily on the Ironton Commercial Club to establish the industrial park which supplies commercial space available for growth in town. 

The Serbian Sisters, a non-profit group, primary concern is the preservation of the heritage associated with an epoch known as the Cuyuna Iron Range.  They maintain Lika Garden, on the corner of Irene and Second Street, as a memorial to area immigrants.

A majority of the houses were built before 1960 in the Craftsman and Prairie Architecture style; they are well kept and have character.  The neighborhoods are safe and comfortable with plenty of park and green space.  A vacated railroad bed bisects the community and a children’s park has been placed there.

Ironton identified these additional assets in their community:

Natural Assets:

High grade iron ore deposit

June Lake

16 acres of undeveloped land

127 lakes

“Up North” scenery

Woody trails -


Mississippi River

Rabbit Lake Indian Reservation – from Sioux Wars 

Mine pits




Cultural Assets:

Native American heritage

Mining history

Strong family ties-third generational

Melting pot – Croatians, Balkans, Yugoslav, Finns, Norwegian, Serbian


Human Assets:


Vibrant community members

Firemen and auxiliary

Medical staff

Noted eye care clinic-pioneer in Lasik surgery

Volunteer groups who help

Sheriff’s Office support



Social Assets:

Youth programs

American Legion

Lions Club

Great volunteers and organizations

Christian foundations

Commercial Club

Festivals – Fourth of July, Light the Night,  Heritage Days

Serbian Sisters

Sheriff’s Office support

Area Fire and Rescue


Political Assets:

County Commissioner

First Responders

Sheriff’s Department


MN State Representative Joe Radinovich

City Administrator


Financial Assets:

Legion scholarships – HS seniors

Wells Fargo in town

Hallett Foundation – charitable trust

Reasonable housing costs

40 acres of lean iron ore owned by city



Built Assets:

Location on State 210

Walking and bike trails

Renovated historic church – turned into housing

Many City parks

New Post Office

Several buildings on historic registry

Crosby-Ironton Schools shared

Old school block – available for development

Grandma’s Park

Grandpa’s basket ball court

“City Beautiful” movement – wide streets

Industrial Park

Craftsman and Prairie architectural style

Walkable neighborhoods

BBQ – Bucket of Bones  - state recognized

Hallett Recreation Center



It was difficult for this group’s participants to decide the top priorities for their community with many opportunities to select from.  Developing new housing on the old school block site was discussed as an opportunity as well as revitalizing the Commercial Club.  Also discussed was how to encourage participation and involvement by younger generations in the community.  The community members have determined the following to be their primary wishes for the community.

Community Goals

 1. Lodging

With new recreational opportunities being developed in the area a need for lodging has arisen.  There is space available within the city limits for development and sites to rehab to accommodate the influx of tourists.  It is conceivable that current park space can be used to meet the need for a camping area.  The goal is to fulfill the lodging needs of visitors to the area.

 2. Community Beautification Plan

Presenting a clean and beautified community is important to residents.  Acquiring funding will help with efforts to renovate existing buildings, including the building interior and street facing facades.  The Bonnie Bell Triangle will be beautified to greet visitors to town and public art displays around town will add to the welcoming appearance.

 3. Promote economic development in industrial park

Diversification of the local economy, possibly by developing more manufacturing in the existing industrial park, will help to enhance Ironton’s economy and generate commercial growth.   Residents’ wishes included a need to focus on attracting new industry in this area. 


For more information about Ironton, go to: