Structured around Pleasant Lake, the area began as a water source for the Saint Paul municipal water system, which still maintains water access rights today. The land was later purchased by Saint Paul magnate James Jerome Hill in 1883 and expanded into a 5,000-acre agricultural research farm.
His son Louis Hill later owned North Oaks Farm until death in 1948. Ownership passed to Louis' children who decided to develop the land into a model residential community. They incorporated the North Oaks Company with a mission to build with respect for the natural environment, having witnessed metropolitan sprawl during this time. To ensure their mission would be fulfilled, land was subdivided and sold with a warranty deed that created the North Oaks Home Owners’ Association (NOHOA) to be responsible for roads and recreation. Each deed placed each home's property line half way into the street, placing all roads into private ownership.
Remaining land in the city is owned by the North Oaks Company. The original farm buildings have been restored and the farm site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.