The Jonathan Community in Chaska, Minnesota is a community of about 8,000 people nestled among 2,200 acres of woods, lakes, and rolling farmland. Chaska is a historic Minnesota River community of over 24,000 residents. The community borders the Hazeltine National Golf Course, Chaska Town Course, Jonathan Elementary School, Clover Ridge Elementary School, Chaska Commons, and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
McKnight envisioned five separate “villages” with potential for great population growth, industrial parks that would encircle the villages, as well as trails and recreational parks, which were unheard of at the time. In developing the Jonathan community, McKnight, created the first New Town in North America that promoted sound and economic growth, added balanced housing for families, developed innovative housing and community development technology, enlarged choices in housing and employment, and sustained diversified local home building industry.
McKnight wanted to create a community in which people could coexist and enjoy living among preserved land and nature as an improved take on the typical suburban lifestyle of that time. He faced many questions, opposition, and criticism, as this development was very different from typical suburban communities throughout the country. But he fought hard and carried out this innovative idea with many supporters on board.
The Minnesota Renaissance Festival, which attracts people from near and far, originally started in Jonathan in the woods of McKnight Park just north of Jonathan Elementary School in 1971. The Jonathan Development Corporation joined the founders in building a stage and some booths to get the Festival off to a good start. They charged $1.50 for admission and featured beads, people making candles, crafters, Shakespearean readings, and food. On the grand opening weekend spanning two days, over 25,000 people attended the first ever Renaissance Festival then called, “A Celebration of Nature, Art, and Life!”
One of the more notable landmarks of the Jonathan community is the old farm silo at the northwest corner of Highway 41 and Hundertmark Road. This silo marks the location of the Christian Bender farm, homesteaded in the mid-1800’s. McKnight purchased the farm from his grandson, in 1963, and it was the first farm to become part of Jonathan. Another landmark is the Karen House, on the land that once belonged to a local farmer, and was later acquired by the Jonathan Development Corporation. Was later renamed the “Karen House” after Karen Baker who was a prominent Jonathan Association Executive Director. The Karen House now home of the Jonathan Association office and many community events. The Apple Barn, located on the Karen House headquarters property, acts as a storage facility and allows the Jonathan Association to stage management operations and store equipment properly.
Today, the Jonathan Association offers physical amenities and common open spaces for the enjoyment of its residents. The community includes 47 bus shelters and mail stations, 34 neighborhood entrance monuments, 19 tot lot playgrounds, and community garden plots. A 10.3 mile-long trail system winds through the various neighborhoods with notable landmarks throughout. Lake Grace is located along the Jonathan trails and is part of a chain of four lakes: Lake Bavaria, Lake Jonathan and Lake Hazeltine and was named after Grace McKnight, wife to Henry McKnight. Residents enjoy waterfront activities and a pavilion that can be used for events both planned and spontaneous.
As you can see, the Jonathan “New Town” community is a rich part of Chaska’s history, and continues being run through its seven separate committees: Heritage, Activities, Architectural Review, Buildings & Grounds, Communications, Elections and Finance. Jonathan residents play a key role and are publicly recognized and rewarded for their innovative ideas and volunteer contributions. For more information on the Jonathan community, the Jonathan Community website is a great resource that provides historical documents, amenities, resources, and much more.
If you have any additional questions about the city of Chaska or would like further information about its history, schools, community life, or the local real estate market, please feel free to visit TwinCitiesPropertyFinder.com or call 1-800-909-1953.