Land Use

Roll Your Own City Hall

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"Above all, he knew the supreme psychological fact about patriotism, as certain in connection with it as that a fine shame comes to all lovers, the fact that the patriot never under any circumstances boasts of the largeness of his country, but always, and of necessity, boasts of the smallness of it." –G.K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill

Friday fun link: The Naughty American describes the smallest town in the Gopher State:

Minnesota native and advertising executive Mike Haeg founded the tiny city of Mount Holly, Minnesota (Population: 4), back in October of 2005.

The "city" is simply the three-bedroom bungalow-style house and surrounding property that Haeg, his wife, Tammy, and two kids, Jackson and Autumn, occupy.

Haeg revealed that Mount Holly "takes 27 seconds to walk across. Not even that. I was probably walking slow; watering the grass."…

It took about a year and a half for Mount Holly to be recognized by the state of Minnesota, but seemingly overnight, Haeg said he became the mayor, chief of police, town drunk, coroner, chamber of commerce, and tourism board for the city.

He added, "I used to be Director of Sanitation, but I handed it off to Jackson."

Hold on—the state recognized the town? Well…here's how The Rake describes the process:

[O]ne day, when renewing his driver's license, he simply wrote 'Mt. Holly' as the city. A flustered clerk allowed the heretofore fictitious locale on state-sanctioned paperwork, making the little village official: On October 27, 2005 (recognized by the four citizens of the new town as Founder's Day), Mike Haeg's new driver's license read "Mount Holly, MN."

The town's website (which lists Mount Holly's population as just one—evidently Haeg hasn't updated it since granting citizenship to the rest of his family) boasts that the city has a 0% illiteracy rate. It also includes an interesting Municipal Records Department.

According to The Naughty American, the surrounding city of Shakopee doesn't officially recognize its neighbor, but so far the municipalities have managed to coexist:

Shakopee Mayor John Schmitt also doesn't recognize Mount Holly as a real city, even though he has driven by Mike Haeg's house numerous times on the way to his own City Hall.

But, for him, a sign out front reading, "Welcome to Mount Holly, pop. 4" does not a city make, and he describes Mount Holly as an imaginary city. "It really exists in the minds of those in the Haeg household," he said….

To keep the peace, Haeg makes sure to pay taxes to Shakopee, the state of Minnesota and the Federal Government, and always buys "$20 worth of raffle tickets a year from Shakopee's Volunteer Fire Department to ensure a hasty response, in case of a catastrophe."

For more ambitious secessionists: Erwin Strauss' classic guide How to Start Your Own Country. (One Amazon reviewer comments, "The best thing about this book is that it provides hope for all of us out here who want to have thier own country, but may not necissarily have the space.") See also the BBC series of the same name.

Elsewhere in Reason: Has it really been nine years since I wrote this story?