Richfield's origins date back to 1858. Named after the rich farmland that underlies the houses, streets, offices, parks and schools of today, Richfield officially became a City in 1908 by adopting a president/trustee form of government. The original boundaries took in much of what is currently downtown Minneapolis extending west to Lake Minnetonka and south and east to the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. A series of annexations by Minneapolis and surrounding communities eventually reduced Richfield to its present size. By 1927, the City was seeing significant new growth when the New Ford Town area was developed, the beginning of a trend of suburbanization that would last more than 50 years.
Primary pre-World War II settlement occurred along Lyndale Avenue and 60th Street. Richfield's premier business was Bachman's, located along Lyndale Avenue. The Academy of the Holy Angels was established in the area in 1930 to offer expanded educational opportunities.
Richfield experienced a population boom following World War II. As a first-ring Minneapolis suburb, Richfield quickly became a popular home for returning war veterans in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The City developed as a bedroom community; strictly limiting commercial development. Statistics show that from 1940 to 1960, Richfield's population grew from under 10,000 to over 42,000. The City's population topped out at almost 50,000 in 1970. From 1970 to the present, Richfield's population has declined, primarily due to decreases in average household size, expansion of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport and expansion of the regional highway network.