Savage is a suburban city south-southwest of downtown Minneapolis in Scott County in the State of Minnesota. The city is situated on the south bank of the Minnesota River in a region commonly referred to as South of the River, comprising the southern portion of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the sixteenth largest metropolitan area in the United States. The population of Savage was 26,911 at the 2010 census.
The landing point for Irish and Scottish immigrants in 1800, Savage has grown into a developing bedroom community, absorbing population growth from Burnsville, its larger neighbor to the east. Once a shipbuilding port for the U.S. Navy, Savage is now an industrial manufacturing job center in the southern metro. The city is still relatively undeveloped, with sections of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge and Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve within its borders.
In the 17th century, French fur traders and explorers explored the Minnesota River valley. After 1750, Mdewakanton Dakota then settled at Chief Black Dog's camp—near what is now Black Dog Lake in Burnsville. Dakota used the Minnesota River valley region including present day Savage for fish, game, boating and camping.
In 1852, traders established a small post at the confluence of the Credit River and the Minnesota River. William Byrne, who immigrated from County Kilkenny, Ireland to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1840, arrived in the area shortly after, via steamboat from Fort Snelling. Already established in business and trade, he and other Irish and Scottish settlers build Hamilton Landing, a port for boats, named after the city he immigrated to in Canada. The town incorporated in 1892 as the village of Hamilton. Byrne later settled another nearby area which became Burnsville.
The Chicago Northwestern (present day Union Pacific Railroad) railway line reached the site in 1865, and in 1866 the town gained a post office. Hamilton became the crossroads of trade and service in the region with the Credit River, Minnesota River, the valley's wagon and road trails, and the rail line.
The post office was later renamed Glendale Post Station in 1894 and formed Glendale Township to the west of Hamilton but was later consolidated with Savage in 1969. The roughly 17 blocks of the late 19th-century town remain as Savage's downtown along Highway 13 (Minnesota).
In 1902, Minneapolis entrepreneur Marion Willis Savage purchased racing horse Dan Patch and trained and raced him at his farm in the limits of Hamilton. Dan Patch's notoriety grew as the horse began breaking speed records and with it the prestige of the town. In 1904 the townspeople renamed the community after Savage with the post office officially confirming. In 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair, Dan Patch broke the world pacing mile record at 1 minute and 55 seconds, a record that remained unsurpassed for 54 years.
During World War II, Savage was home to Camp Savage, a Military Intelligence School (MIS) language school, which taught Japanese to American military personnel. Established in 1942, the school trained with niseis and improved military intelligence of the time. It was later relocated to Fort Snelling and the camp is commemorated at Normandale College's Japanese garden. At about the same time, Cargill, Incorporated, began building ships for the U.S. Navy at the newly constructed Meadowland Shipyard,renamed Port Cargill (former site of Hamilton Landing). To launch the ships, of the Minnesota River were dredged down to from Savage to the Mississippi River confluence. About 3,500 people were employed during peak production resulting in 18 auxiliary oil and gas carriers and 4 tugboats constructed. After World War II the port began shipping agricultural commodities.
Savage remained undeveloped in the post-war housing boom, isolated by the Minnesota River and without a direct interstate connection. Lack of available construction materials in the immediate area also prevented development. By the 1980s, with the upgrade of Highway 13 and construction of the Highway 169 Bloomington Ferry Bridge in 1996 across the Minnesota River, Savage's population finally boomed as one of the growing exurb cities with low cost greenfield land in the metropolitan area. The citizens of Savage reclaimed some of their history in the early 21st century, when it relocated the displaced Savage Depot built in 1880 by the then Chicago, Minneapolis and Omaha Rail Road.