St. Cloud, Minnesota (population 61,000), is situated just below the confluence of the Mississippi and Sauk Rivers. Founder John L. Wilson first purchased land in 1853 and St. Cloud grew rapidly in the next few years, adding business buildings, mills, shops, factories, hotels, and dwellings.
Early St. Cloud was originally one of three local communities that became the City of St. Cloud. St. Cloud was nicknamed "Granite City" after the granite quarries and stone finishing businesses that gave St. Cloud its early economic boost. Still highly sought, St. Cloud granite was recently used for the F.D.R. and Korean War Memorials in Washington, D.C.
The city, St. Cloud Convention and Visitors Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, local granite industry, and Stearns History Museum are cooperating in a heritage tourism marketing effort that brands St. Cloud as "Granite Country USA." Results to date include a festival and a documentary.
Since 1997, the city has made downtown revitalization a high priority. The central business district of downtown St. Cloud is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and a design manual encourages property owners to improve their facades in a historically and architecturally correct manner. Four such improvements have been completed since 2003.
In 2004 the city and various private sector partners published a walking tour guidebook covering the historic downtown area, and visitors and residents can use it to explore 43 historic resources. An operator in period dress drives a historic trolley using the guidebook as the basis for interpreting what riders see. The trolley tour also includes a residential historic district and historic gardens nestled along the shores of the Mississippi River.
The Munsinger and Clemens Gardens attract thousands of people during the summer season. At the Stearns History Museum, visitors and residents can learn about the history of the local granite and dairy industries. Another heritage experience is attending a production at the recently restored 1921 Paramount Theater downtown.
The St. Cloud Historical and Neighborhood Preservation Association has been instrumental in designation of the Southside Neighborhood and Barden Park Historic Districts, and offers historic home tours. The St. Cloud Heritage Preservation Commission runs an annual "Historic Properties in St. Cloud" real estate seminar and a Century Homes recognition program honoring homes 100 years or older that retain their original architectural integrity. Forty-five houses have been recognized by the program to date.
St. Cloud has been a Certified Local Government since 1990 and hosted the 25th annual Minnesota Statewide Historic Preservation Conference in 2004. In conjunction with this conference, the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions held a Commission Assistance and Mentoring Program for local preservation commissioners and staff.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2005.