Prior Lake (named after Charles Prior (of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railroad) was first incorporated as a village in 1891. Prior Lake is one of the oldest cities in the Twin Cities, Minnesota south metro area. In order for the town to incorporate, it needed to meet certain evaluation requirements. To meet these requirements, three farms, including the Lyons and Nauck (presently the Kop farm), were brought into the town boundaries.
In 1894 the Grainwood House, a popular inn, burned down, but was immediately rebuilt, bigger and better than the first one, and called the Grainwood Hotel. In 1897, the Presbyterian Church was built at the present northwest corner of Highway 13 and Dakota Street. It was Prior Lake’s first church. Previously, church services were held in the homes of the people. The following year College Hill School was built to the east of the church, a red brick building housing grades 1-10.
Also in 1898, the state population count of Sioux Native Americans was 920 with most of them concentrated in three places: Birch Coolie, Prairie Island and Prior Lake. It was also during this decade that baseball would become a favorite town sport and it would continue to be for the next century.
From 1870 to the 1920’s there was little growth in Prior Lake. It was primarily a farming community that attracted summer residents along its shores and at the Grainwood Hotel. The 1920’s to 1950’s saw Prior Lake as a typical small American town experiencing the major events surrounding two World Wars. From World War II to 1960 Prior Lake experienced moderate growth with the lake being a major recreational facility.
From 1960 to the present, Prior Lake experienced significant growth, becoming a suburban/bedroom community with the lake and Highway 13 development as the greatest catalyst for growth.
Prior Lake is made up of two sections, Upper Prior Lake and Lower Prior Lake. The area of each is 354 and 810 acres respectively. Upper Prior Lake flows Northerly, draining into the larger, Lower Prior Lake via a navigable channel that runs under Eagle Creek Avenue (Scott County Highway 21).
Prior Lake is a popular destination for fishing and water sports. Prior Lake is also popular with snowmobilers and can be accessed using the Scott County Snowmobile Trail System and other designated trails in the winter.
The eastern portion of Spring Lake along Scott County Road 12 is also located within the City of Prior Lake. Spring Lake, with 290 acres, but being a few minutes further out from the metro area offers similar recreational opportunities as Upper Prior Lake with a more rural character and less traffic. Spring Lake, being several feet higher in elevation, flows north, into Upper Prior Lake via a non-navigable spillway and culvert under County Road 12.