Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester is a city founded in 1854 in the U.S. State of Minnesota and is the county seat of Olmsted County located on the Zumbro River's south fork in Southeast Minnesota. It is Minnesota's third-largest city and the largest city located outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of 2018, the Rochester metropolitan area had a population estimated at 219,802.[8] According to the 2010 United States Census the city had a population of 106,769.[9] The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the 2018 population was 116,961. It is the home of the Mayo Clinic and a major IBM facility, one of the company's largest at its peak. The city has long been rated as one of the best places to live in the United States by multiple publications such as Money.[10][11]

City of Rochester
Downtown Rochester featuring the Plummer Building.


"Med City"
America's City of Care and Innovation [1]
Location of the city of Rochester
within Olmsted County, Minnesota
City of Rochester
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 44°1′24.24″N 92°27′46.62″W
CountryUnited States
  MayorKim Norton[2] (I)
  Council PresidentRandy Staver[3]
  City55.48 sq mi (143.70 km2)
  Land55.20 sq mi (142.95 km2)
  Water0.29 sq mi (0.75 km2)  0.29%
1,030 ft (401.4 m)
  RankUS: 242nd
MN: 3rd
  Density2,096.80/sq mi (809.59/km2)
107,677 (US: 288th)
219,802 (US: 204th)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
  Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
55901, 55902, 55903, 55904, 55905, 55906
Area code(s)507
FIPS code27-54880
GNIS feature ID0650180[7]


The area developed as a stagecoach stop between Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Dubuque, Iowa near the Zumbro River. The community was founded by George Head and his wife Henrietta who built log cabin Head's Tavern in 1854 and named the city after his hometown of Rochester, New York. When the Winona and St Peter Railroad initiated service in October 1864, it brought new residents and business opportunities further spurring growth and expansion. In 1863, Dr. William W. Mayo arrived as the examining surgeon for Union draftees in the Civil War. Rochester celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2004.

St. Mary's Hospital

On August 21, 1883, the Great Tornado demolished much of Rochester, leaving 37 dead and approximately 200 injured. As there was no medical facility in the immediate area at the time, Dr. Mayo and his two sons worked together to care for the wounded. Donations of US$60,000 (US$1,567,054 in 2016 accounting for inflation) were collected and the Sisters of St. Francis, assisted by Mayo, opened a new facility named St. Marys Hospital in 1889.[12]

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo practice grew and is today among the largest and most well-respected medical facilities in the world and it has been consistently ranked No. 1 Best hospital in the United States. Many notable people from around the world, including former Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, have visited Rochester as patients of the Mayo Clinic. International patients include King Hussein of Jordan.


Rochester lies alongside the South Fork of the Zumbro River which is 57.6 miles long[13] and is ringed by gentle hills and largely surrounded by farmland within a deciduous forest biome. The Zumbro Watershed flows through 1,422 square miles[14] of agricultural and urban lands. Located in southeast Minnesota, the City of Rochester falls within the Driftless Area: the only region in North America that was never glaciated and contains deeply-carved river valleys. The rugged terrain is due both to the lack of glacial deposits, or drift, and to the incision of the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries into bedrock. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 54.75 square miles (141.80 km2), of which 54.59 square miles (141.39 km2) of it is land and 0.16 square miles (0.41 km2) is water.[15] The city is located 85 miles (137 km) southeast of Minneapolis-St. Paul.[16]

Rochester is in Olmsted County, one of only four counties in Minnesota without a natural lake. Artificial lakes exist in the area, including Silver Lake, a dammed portion of the South Fork Zumbro River just below the convergence with Silver Creek near the city center. Silver Lake was once used as a cooling pond when the coal-burning power plant was operated by Rochester Public Utilities at the lake. When operational, the RPU coal plant's heated water output prevented the lake from generally freezing over during the winter months; attracting large numbers of migrating giant Canada geese. Large murders of crows are known to flock to Rochester during winter, including the Rochester cemetery downtown.[17]

Rochester has an extensive parks system, the largest of which are Silver Lake and Soldiers Field in the central part of the city. A major flood in 1978 led the city to embark on an expensive and successful flood-control project that involved altering many nearby rivers and streams. The Zumbro river flowing through the center of the city is presently being readdressed for increased development and use as part of city planning in conjunction with funding from the Destination Medical Center project.

Westward View of Downtown Rochester from Quarry Hill Park (2010).


With a slightly higher altitude and without the UHI as the Twin Cities, the climate is warm-summer humid continental climate (Köppen: Dfb) even being further south, with hot summers and very cold winters.[18] The city features four distinct seasons. Rochester sees on average 30 inches (760 mm) of rainfall and 48 inches (120 cm) of snowfall per year. Significant snow accumulation is common during the winter months. Spring and fall are transitional seasons, with a general warming trend during the spring and a general cooling trend during the fall. However, it is not uncommon to see some snowfall during the early months of spring and the later months of fall.[19] Rochester is the second windiest city in the United States, with wind speeds averaging 12.6 mph.[20] January to April are the windiest months on average, according to The Weather Channel. Rochester has been hit by two F4 tornadoes since 1950 (the first on May 10, 1953, and the other on September 16, 1962).[21] The city has also been hit by two tornadoes in the past decade. On June 17, 2010, a tornado hit the city's northwest side, damaging or destroying several homes and businesses around the Lincolnshire neighborhood.[22] Another tornado struck the city on June 4, 2019, causing damage to parts of Southwest Rochester.[23]


Historical population
Est. 2018116,961[6]9.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[26]
2018 Estimate[27]

As of the census[5] of 2010, there were 106,769 people, 43,025 households, and 26,853 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,955.8 inhabitants per square mile (755.1/km2). There were 45,683 housing units at an average density of 836.8 per square mile (323.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 82.0% White, 6.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 6.8% Asian (1.3% Indian, 1.2% Cambodian, 1.0% Chinese, 0.9% Vietnamese, 0.6% Laotian, 0.4% Korean, 0.4% Filipino, 0.2% Hmong, 0.1% Japanese, 0.1% Thai, 0.1% Pakistani), 2.0% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.2% of the population (3.7% Mexican, 1.3% Puerto Rican, 2.0% Other).

In terms of ancestry, the 2005–2007 American Community Survey found German Americans to be the largest single ethnic group in Rochester, making up 35.5% of the city's population. Norwegian Americans made up 15.9%, while Irish Americans contributed to 11.6% of the city's populace. English Americans made up 8.2% of the population and Swedish Americans were 5.0% of the city's population. In the mid-1980s Rochester had fewer than 40 Hmong persons.[16] The 1990 United States Census counted 200 Hmong persons in Rochester. This increased to 300 by 1998. Cathleen Jo Faruque, author of "Migration of Hmong to Rochester, Minnesota: Life in the Midwest," wrote in 2003 that there was "every indication that this trend will continue".[28]

There were 43,025 households of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 9.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.5% had a male householder with no wife present, and 37.6% were non-families. 30.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.04.

The median age in the city was 35 years. 24.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 8.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 29.4% were from 25 to 44; 24.8% were from 45 to 64; and 12.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.

As of the 2011–2015 American Community Survey, the median household income was $68,023.[29]


Rochester is governed by a mayor-council government with a seven-member city council.[30] The current mayor is Kim Norton.[31] As of January 2019,[32] the city council comprises: Randy Staver, City Council President; Patrick Keane, 1st Ward; Michael Wojcik, 2nd Ward; Nick Campion, 3rd Ward; Mark Bilderback, 4th Ward; Shaun Palmer, 5th Ward; and Annalissa Johnson, 6th Ward.[33]

Rochester is the seat of Olmsted County, run by a seven-member elected county board, each representing district residents.[34] The County Board of Commissioners oversee county operations and address citizen concerns. When a commissioner is elected, they are elected to serve a 4-year term. When that term ends, the commissioner can run for re-election if they so desire. The County Attorney and the County Sheriff are also elected to 4-year terms and can run for re-election when the term expires if they choose. Each of these elected officials acts as the director for his/her office, and are accountable to the residents of Olmsted County.[35]

Rochester falls under the Olmsted County District Court within the Third Judicial District of the State of Minnesota.[36]

The city includes parts of Minnesota state legislative districts 25 and 26.[37] In the Minnesota House of Representatives, District 25A is represented by Duane Quam (R), District 25B is represented by Duane Sauke (DFL), District 26A is represented by Tina Liebling (DFL), and District 26B is represented by Nels Pierson (R). In the Minnesota Senate, Rochester is represented by Dave Senjem and Carla Nelson, both Republicans. Rochester is located in Minnesota's 1st congressional district, represented by Jim Hagedorn, a member of the Republican Party.


Rochester Public Schools enroll 16,300 students in 23 public primary and secondary schools.[38] The city is divided into three public high school attendance zones: John Marshall, Mayo and Century. Private schools in the city include Lourdes, Schaeffer Academy, and Rochester Central Lutheran School amongst various smaller private religious schools. Studio Academy, a fine arts-focused charter school operated for 10 years in Rochester and closed its doors in 2011 upon losing its charter.[39][40] The Rochester STEM Academy opened in 2011, occupying the former Studio Academy building.

Higher education in Rochester had been concentrated around the former University Center Rochester in the city's southeast outskirts, where Rochester Community and Technical College shares a campus with a branch of Winona State University.[41] The University of Minnesota offered degrees through UCR until 2007, when the University of Minnesota Rochester was established downtown finally establishing the presence of major university in the city somewhat in hand with the development comprehensive city planning and investment under the Destination Medical Center project.[42] Branches of Augsburg University and College of St. Scholastica are also in Rochester, as are branches of Winona State University and St. Mary's University. The Mayo Clinic offers graduate medical education and research programs through the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

According to the United States Census Bureau 2011–2015, the number of high school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+ was 94.1%. The number of bachelor's degree or higher percent of persons age 25+ was 41.3%.[29]


Mayo Clinic forms the core of Rochester's economy. As of 2016, it employs 34,180 people and draws more than 2 million visitors annually.[43] The clinic's many facilities, along with hotels, restaurants and retail stores, comprise nearly all of the city's downtown. Excluding the state government, Mayo Clinic is the largest employer in Minnesota.[44] Other care providers, including the Rochester Federal Medical Center, are significant employers.

IBM's Rochester campus is one of the company's most important R&D and manufacturing centers. It has produced the System i series,[45] been home to the first Blue Gene prototype, and contributed the servers for Roadrunner.[46] Seven employees at the Rochester IBM campus created IBM Employees Credit Union, which is now Think Mutual Bank, a chain of banks in the Rochester and Twin Cities metropolitan areas.

The economy of Rochester is also influenced by the agricultural nature of the region. There are multiple dairy producers such as Kemps that are active in the area. In addition, Kerry Flavours and Ingredients, a subsidiary of the global Irish company called Kerry Group, maintains a production plant in Rochester that specializes in fermented ingredients, found in breads, meats and other processed foods.

No. Employer No. of Employees
1 Mayo Clinic 34,660
2 IBM 2,791 [47]
3 Rochester Public Schools 2,727
4 City of Rochester 1,291
5 Olmsted County 1,279
6 Olmsted Medical Center 1,249
7 McNeilus Truck & Manuf. 1,214
8 Charter Communications 902
9 Kahler Hotels 680
10 Crenlo 600
11 Benchmark Electronics 562
12 Rochester Community and Technical College 500
13 Federal Medical Center, Rochester 450
14 Reichel Foods 450

Destination Medical Center

In 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill known as Destination Medical Center (DMC). It will also increase Mayo Clinic's tax base, business and economic growth throughout the state of Minnesota.[48] Because of this legislation, The Mayo Clinic will invest in $3.5 billion to upgrade patient rooms, add additional work space, and build research and administrative buildings.[49]

The main developments of this plan will be in the DMC sub-districts. The Downtown Waterfront district will cover The Government Center, The Civic Center, and most areas near the Zumbro River. The Central Station district includes Central Park and most of Civic Center Drive, aimed to become a transportation hub of the city. St. Marys Place will cover St. Marys hospital and St. Marys Park, as well as most of 2nd Street. The Heart of the City will feature the Mayo Clinic campus and major residential, commercial, and retail companies. The Discovery Square area will include scientific and technology research facilities. Lastly, The UMR and Recreation district will feature Soldier's Field and the University of Minnesota Rochester campus.[50]

Arts and culture

A number of Rochester buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the historic Chateau Theatre, which in 2015 was bought by the city for preservation,[51] and Avalon Music, formerly a hotel important in the local civil rights movement. In 2019, after renovations and a public RFP, the Chateau Theatre is re-opening as an exhibition venue.[52]

Founded in 1946, the Rochester Art Center is located downtown, just south of the Mayo Civic Center. In 2017, the Rochester Art Center's financial troubles [53] combined with dwindling arts and gallery space in Rochester due to the departure of Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists ( SEMVA) from their Peace Plaza location, citing rising rental costs, fire damage to 535 Gallery shortly after its launch, and the closure of C4 Salon, a proving ground for young artists, brought a renewed focus on the need for both formal and informal arts spaces in the city.[54]

In the summer from June to the end of August, every Thursday the city puts on Thursdays on First[55] where local restaurants and artists can set up booths all along First Avenue downtown Rochester. There are two stages where bands perform and provide entertainment. There are also a number of street musicians sitting on walls or standing on the sidewalks.

The oldest cultural arts institution in the community, Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale was founded in 1919 as a professional performing arts organization called the Rochester Orchestra. Its earliest ensemble — the Lawler-Dodge Orchestra — was founded in 1912 as a volunteer orchestra, driven by Daisy Plummer, wife of world-famous Mayo Clinic physician, Dr. Henry Plummer, and directed by Harold Cooke. In early years, the Orchestra appeared in the former Chateau Theatre where they performed background music for silent movies.

In 2019, entrepreneurs Andy and Anna Smith opened the Gray Duck Theater, an independent movie theater meant to bring independent and art house films to the city and help build up the area's film community.[56]

Rochester also houses the Rochester Public Library (Minnesota) near the Civic Center one of the largest library in the area and has been awarded National Medal for Museum and Library Service in 2018.

Parks and recreation

Minnesota has one of the most extensive state park systems in the nation. Seventy-two state parks are used year-round for hunting, camping, and hiking. In addition, Minnesota has more miles of bike trails than any other state, and a growing network of hiking trails.[57] Likewise, Rochester's city park system is large, with more than 100 sites covering 5 square miles (13 km2). The city also maintains 85 miles (137 km) of paved trails[58] in addition to state trails such as the Douglas State Trail. The nearest state park is Whitewater State Park.

In addition, Rochester has provided educational and recreation opportunities through Quarry Hill Nature Center, a cooperative effort between the Rochester Parks & Recreation Department, Rochester Public School District and Friends of Quarry Hill Nature Center. Quarry Hill Park was originally a part of the former Rochester State Hospital farm and was purchased from the state by the City of Rochester in 1965. The Nature Center opened in 1973 as a cooperative effort between the Rochester Park Department and the Rochester Public School District. In September 1990, work was completed on a major addition to the existing nature center, effectively tripling the main floor area and enabling Quarry Hill to meet the increasing needs of both the general public and school. Additional facilities were completed in 2017 in addition to nordic skiing trails in 2014. These facilities include new educational facilities and a 19th-century prairie style home while guests can rent skis and snow shoes on site to enjoy the trails in winter.[59]

Oxbow Park and Zollman Zoo located on the Zumbro River in nearby Byron, Minnesota, offers hiking, camping, fishing, and extensive trails in addition to the Zollman Zoo which houses over 30 species of animals, most of which have injuries that would prevent them from surviving in the wild. All of the animals are native to Minnesota. The zoo is named after Dr. Paul E. Zollman. The most popular animals include a wolf, bald eagle, white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcat, river otters, bison and a cougar. The zoo is open year-round.[60]

The city also maintains four public golf courses: Northern Hills, Eastwood Golf Club, Hadley Creek (9 holes), and Soldiers Field Golf Course located downtown.[61] In addition, a number of private courses are located in the Rochester area, including Willow Creek Golf Club, Oak Summit Golf Club, Maple Valley Golf Club, Somerby Golf Club, and the Rochester Golf and Country Club along with a number of courses in smaller surrounding communities. Minnesota has one of the highest number of golf courses per capita in the country,[62] generally found to be of much higher quality than public courses located in the Northeast and elsewhere.[63] Extensive fishing is available in the area,[64] including high quality trout runs.[65][66] Along with parks and trails, there are various nearby farms in Rochester notably an Alpaca farm near Eastwood Golf Club which has 20 Alpaca native of Peru and other farms include Apple Orchard and Berry farms. The city of Rochester has also started the bike share program for its community members where the registered memebrs and visitors can rent a bike for free through one of its Bike share locations at Rochester Public Library (Minnesota), Peace plaza or Rochester City Hall[67]

Quarry Hill Oak Savana (2016).

Quarry Hill

The foundation of Rochester State Hospital began in 1875 as the Minnesota Inebriate Asylum funded by a tax on liquor dealers. Land  was purchased in 1876 and construction begun in 1877 and this land included building of a hospital and the park nearby which was used by the patients and their families. In 1970's, the park was transferred from hospital to the state for the use of general public and since then there have been various developments in the park including laying of paved trails. The 329 acre park offers exiting gateway to adventurists including 8+ miles of paved and hiking trails, a pond, and a historical sandstone cave carved in 1882. This soft St. Peter sand stone cave was dug in the late 1800s to store food for the patients of the State hospital which was later abandoned with the invent of modern refrigerator. Now this cave is used as a historic site for the educationists. Quarry Hill Nature is the center stone of the Quarry hill park in Rochester, Minnesota which offers variety of activities for kids and nature lover including cross country skis, bird watching and fossil hunting.[68]


The city newspaper is the Post-Bulletin, an afternoon paper which publishes Monday through Saturday. The Post-Bulletin company also publishes Rochester Magazine, a monthly features periodical.[69][70]

There are three television stations based in Rochester: KTTC channel 10.1 (NBC), KTTC-(CW) channel 10.2, and KXLT-TV channel 47 (Fox) are a duopoly. The stations share studios as part of a special agreement between Quincy Newspapers and Segamorehill Broadcasting. ABC affiliate KAAL is also based in southwest Rochester. KIMT channel 3 (CBS) in Mason City, Iowa, channel 15 KSMQ (PBS) in Austin and channel 24 KYIN (PBS) in Mason City are among the stations that serve the market. KAAL is licensed to Austin, but has a studio in Rochester. KIMT opened a studio in Rochester in late 2017, which now serves as the main setting for their newscasts.

The Rochester area is provided cable service by Charter Communications, which holds monopoly in the area. Indiana-based Metronet is currently in the process of developing the network to provide cable service to Rochester.[71]


Rochester is served by three U.S. highways (U.S. 14, U.S. 52, and U.S. 63), and the southern edge of Rochester is skirted by Interstate Highway 90 and State Highway 30. Olmsted County Highway 22 is also a main highway in the city because it circles most of Rochester. A combination of skyways and subterranean walkways, subways, link most downtown buildings, which residents often use to avoid harsh winter weather conditions. Public bus transit is run by Rochester Public Transit. Its operations are carried out by First Transit. The city Rochester encourages biking through its numerous trails and to facilitate the biking program all the city buses have bike carrier for easy transportation of bikes.

Rochester International Airport is located seven miles south of downtown. The airport is the second busiest commercial airport in Minnesota [72] It has direct flights to Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis, with occasional charter flights servicing Riverside Resort in Laughlin, Nevada.[73] Beginning in July 2018, service to St. Augustine, Florida and Phoenix was provided by Elite Airways.[74] However, in August 2018 Elite Airways announced the cancellation of its air service from Rochester that was scheduled to commence in October. Low bookings were reported as the reason for the cancellation of the service.[75]

Rochester has a shuttle service connecting to the Minneapolis St. Paul International airport by Rochester Shuttle Service and Groome Transportation (formerly Go Rochester Direct).

Rochester's last passenger rail service, to Chicago to the southeast and Rapid City, South Dakota to the west, ended when the Chicago and North Western Railway's Rochester 400 streamliner ended service in 1963. The closest Amtrak station is at Winona, Minnesota, 45 miles to the east.

Major highways


Team League Venue
Rochester Honkers Northwoods League, Baseball Mayo Field
Rochester Grizzlies NA3HL, Ice Hockey Rochester Recreation Center
Med City Freeze Southern Plains Football League, Semi-Pro Football[76] Rochester Regional Stadium
Rochester Med City FC[77] National Premiere Soccer League, Soccer[78] Rochester Regional Stadium at Rochester Community and Technical College

Awards and rankings

The city had long been a fixture on Money magazine's "Best Places to Live" index, and was ranked number 67 on the 2006 list,[79][80] and in the top 3, including number one multiple times, from 1993 to 1997.

Rochester ranked second in Quality of Life by American City Business Journal.[81]

Rochester ranked sixth in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine's 10 Best Cities for the Next Decade.

Golf Digest and Golf for Women both ranked Rochester as the fifth best golf market in the midwest in 2006.

In 2009, US News and World Report ranked Rochester in the Top Ten Best Places to Grow Up and ninth for Best Cities for job seeking retirees.

Rochester was ranked the 5th best city to retire in by the Milken Institute.[82]

See also


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