Welcome to Willmar! The Minnesota demographer forecasts continued growth for Willmar because of the diverse economy, growth in the number of smaller industries, and the lakes and other recreational attractions in the area.
Willmar, a regional center for West Central Minnesota, is located 100 miles west of the Twin Cities. It is the Kandiyohi County Seat with a population of 19,860. Surrounded by lakes, rolling hills, and rich farmland, Willmar combines the friendly neighborliness of a small town with the opportunities of a large metropolitan area.
Community members are committed to realization of the city’s potential. Medical services, educational opportunities, industrial firms, commercial establishments and recreation facilities are continually expanding.
Residents of Willmar find life meaningful and varied, with opportunities for personal achievement. Family, church, and work ethic traditions are complemented by enjoyment of outdoor activities, organized sports, and cultural events.
Agricultural expansion and the establishment of Willmar as a division point on the Great Northern Railway determined the growth of the community. The Lakotah Indians were indigenous to Kandiyohi County. The first settlers arrived during the 1850’s attracted to the fertile land and an abundance of timber and game. The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 left the township abandoned for several years. The advent of the railroad in Kandiyohi County in 1869 brought new settlers. Many were of Swedish and Norwegian origins; hence the predominance today of residents of Scandinavian heritage. In 1870, Leon Willmar – a Belgian acting as a European bondholder of St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company – purchased the title to Section 1 of Willmar Township. Willmar was established as the county seat in 1871 and was incorporated as a village in 1874 and as a city in 1901.
The residential neighborhoods of Willmar reflect the high quality of life in this community. The tree-lined streets, well-kept homes, and spacious lawns are warm and inviting. Older restored homes and modern housing is available. Ninety-two percent of Willmar homes are owned by their occupants. Apartment buildings, town houses, and condominiums are new and attractive.
Willmar has 32 churches, and seven public and two Christian schools which are located in residential areas. Senior citizen housing, nursing homes and group homes have been integrated successfully into neighborhoods. Willmar has a transit system with regularly scheduled bus service between residential and commercial areas.
The Pioneerland Library System, located in Willmar, is headquarters for 28 branches and a bookmobile. Library services include summer reading and film programs, talking books for the blind, and rental of fine art prints, audio-visuals, videotapes, and films.
Citizen participation is encouraged in all phases of community affairs, and new residents find they quickly can become active community members.