There were 493 households out of which 30.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.4% were married couples living together, 6.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 30.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.40 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.3% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 25.2% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 22.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,927, and the median income for a family was $44,125. Males had a median income of $30,972 versus $21,042 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,925. About 3.5% of families and 7.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.1% of those under age 18 and 14.8% of those age 65 or over.
O.D. Brown of the Railroad Company surveyed the original 16-block town site May 23-29, 1876, but the town didn't begin to develop until the track-laying crews reached the location in August with their branch of the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad. Shortly thereafter, on August 28, the city's plat was dedicated. It was filed another month later on October 4.
Adrian was named after Sargent Mrs Adrian Iselin.jpg, mother of Adrian C. Iselin, one of the directors of the Sioux City and St. Paul Railroad Company. For a time, this claim offended the sensibilities of people who preferred to believe the more inspiring story that the town was named in honor of St. Adrian, the celebrated warrior and Catholic bishop whose name was adopted by the local parish. But since the naming process was well documented, and Adrian received its title in 1876, while St. Adrian Church was not founded until 1877, most of the conflict eventually disappeared. A portrait of the austere Mrs. Adrian together with an article now adorns the wall of her namesake's City Hall.
Adrian prospered early in its life, shipping 100,000 bushels of grain from the station during 1877, the year after its founding. That prosperity was due in large part to the colonizing efforts of John Ireland, third bishop of the St. Paul Diocese. Bishop Ireland used his personal wealth and the power of the Catholic press to attempt to lure Catholic settlers from the eastern cities. In 1877, he bought 20,000 acres (80 km²) of land in the Adrian vicinity. Seven months later he purchased another 35,000 acres (140 km²) for resale to the settlers.
As went the church and railroad, so went the town of Adrian. Its population totaled 193 people in 1880; by 1882 the local parish reported 250 Catholic families living in the area. The number of people in town jumped to 671 in 1890, and positively soared up to 1,258 in 1900. By this time, however, the young towns of Ellsworth, Lismore and Wilmont had gown to claim some of Adrian's railroad trade area. Adrian had also lost a bid to claim the title of Nobles County Seat from Worthington in 1883, and when it failed in an attempt to split the county in 1893, Adrian's future as a small town was set.
But Adrian's population stagnation didn't prevent the town from enjoying some of the most prosperous years of its history. The landmark buildings, which still stand in town, were all built within a ten-year period, beginning in 1891. The first floor of A.M. Becker's massive general store was constructed in 1891, followed by a second in 1895. George Slade and his wife built their 36 room, electric-lit hotel for $22,000 in 1891. The Adrian State Bank building went up that same year, and the town's first telephone office moved upstairs December 10, 1897. When the first St. Adrian Catholic Church burned to the ground Christmas Eve, 1899, the town responded by completing the present edifice in 1901.
During the years from 1910 to 1980, the City of Adrian welcomed automobiles, tractors and all sorts of electrical gadgets. Four times it sent its sons to war, fighting first to end war, then to preserve democracy and after that for reasons over which honest, serious people still disagree. And at 2:00 p.m., November 4, 1967, the section of Interstate Highway 90 passing Adrian officially opened to traffic.
The interstate was to become Adrian's main artery of transportation, replacing the railroad as the source of the town's lifeblood. But even with the new highway, the town continued to fall from the apex of commercial success it had known at the turn of the century.
By the early 1980's, it became clear to town leaders that deliberate planning was required to rejuvenate the city's Maine Avenue. They created the Housing and Redevelopment Authority in response and in 1983 were successful in obtaining a $600,000 grant from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. Those funds financed "The Domino," a project in which five old Maine Avenue buildings were demolished and replaced with new facilities. Adrian Web Page