Minnetonka is eight miles west of Minneapolis. The population is just over 51,000 residents. The word "Minnetonka" comes from the Dakota Indian mni tanka meaning "great water". The city is home to Cargill, the country's largest privately owned company and United Healthcare, the state's largest publicly owned company.
Minnetonka is proud of its reputation as a city that preserves its natural resources—residents can enjoy 49 community parks, more than 81 miles of maintained sidewalks and trails and more than 1,000 acres of public open space, as well as natural scenery that includes mature trees, wetlands and prairies. While Minnetonka shares its name with the very popular Lake Minnetonka, the city of Minnetonka includes only one small bay of the lake – Gray’s Bay, which forms the headwaters of Minnehaha Creek.
The land that would come to be known as Minnetonka was sacred ground for Native Americans. The dense woods and open prairies made for good hunting, while Lake Minnetonka provided excellent fishing. The Dakotah Sioux and Ojibway Chippewa would cross through Minnetonka as they traveled between Shakopee and Mille Lacs. A major Indian trail through Minnetonka crossed Minnehaha Creek just below the rapids at present-day Minnetonka Mills, then ran along the present Baker and Plymouth roads.
In 1851, Indian tribes signed an agreement allowing settlement of lands west of Fort Snelling, and by 1852, Minnetonka's first settlement was established at the current Minnetonka Mills site. Available water power and the clearing of trees for farms provided the right ingredients for establishment of a saw mill, the only one west of the Mississippi River. A few years later, the addition of a furniture factory created the largest business center in Hennepin County. By 1869, the saw mill was replaced by a flour mill, which operated until the mid 1890s when it could no longer compete with the larger mills on St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis.
Early settlers came to Minnetonka primarily from New England and other states east of Minnesota, from northern Europe and the British Isles, and from Bohemia (now part of Czechoslovakia). The Bohemians, or Czechs, introduced the techniques to grow raspberries in this climate, a success the neighboring city of Hopkins has been capitalizing on since 1935 with its annual Raspberry Festival.
As Minnetonka was settled, several small, distinct commercial areas, all two to three miles apart with farms and homes in between, developed over the years. Those areas came to be known as Minnetonka Mills, Glen Lake, Groveland, and Oak Knoll.
During the mid 1970s, city sewer and water lines replaced individual septic tanks and wells in most of Minnetonka. Minnetonka's current city hall was built in 1970, and over time the facility grew to the extensive Civic Center campus it is today, containing a community center, fire station, police department, ice rinks, soccer fields and a water treatment plant.
Ridgedale Mall opened in the early 1970s. In 1982, the Opus Center, a large mixed-use development of office, light industrial, hotel and residential areas was built between Shady Oak Road and Hwy. 169, just north of the Crosstown.