I want to introduce the City of Alpena, MI to everyone. It is a small city in northeastern Lower Michigan on Lake Huron's Thunder Bay. It is 2 hours south of the Mackinac Bridge on US-23.
The area was first settled in the 1850s as a fishing village, but later became a major lumber producer because of the direct access to the virgin White Pine forests of northern Michigan and a navigable river and harbor on a large (mostly) sheltered bay. The lumber industry produced many wealthy people who then built many large houses that have left a decent legacy.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the forests were pretty much exhausted, so the lumber industry began to decline. Luckily, though, all of Alpena and Alpena County has a couple hundred feet of quality limestone about 10 feet below grade. This allowed for the creation and development of the local cement/concrete industry (then Portland Cement Co., now LaFarge Corp.). This is the industry that has mostly sustained the economy for the last 100 years, alongwith a particle board plant, a paper plant (that just recently closed), quality community college, major hospital (with cancer center), manufacturing companys concrete block machine producer, etc.
It is a city that has maintained itself fairly well over the last 150 years, and doesn't really show signs of declining, though there may not be a boom in the near future.
Btw, I grew-up in Alpena and it was a great place to be a child. You had the Lake and River, 150 years of industrial infrastructure (therefore, alot of abandoned/leftover areas to explore as a pre-teen), and walkable/bikable size.
Downtown Alpena - north and south sides of Thunder Bay River (the river divides the downtown)
That was most of Downtown Alpena, which has a nice "main street" scale, but has been eroded with parking lots on primary frontages and on the backs of the main downtown blocks.
Now that you've seen some of Downtown, let's move into the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. These are the areas with the largest number of grand houses from Alpena's lumber era, alongwith many smaller, comfortable houses. I'll even show you 2 of houses I used to live in.
Here are two aerials of typical residential neighborhoods in Alpena:
We'll start at my brother's house, and walk toward downtown:
Now that we have arrived again in Downtown, let's move to the other side of downtown and see the grand houses on Washington Ave.:
The house on the right recently was listed for $122,000. Alpena's cheap and stagant, but stable.
the previous two are the house my family owned when I was in high school. It was a almots completely orginial 1903 late Victorian Queen Anne. It had all the orginial (never painted) oak woodwork, chandeliers, leaded-beveled first floor windows and front parlor French Doors. It is five bedrooms, 1 & 1/2 bath with a 2 car attached garage. Plus, it had alley access, nice. I loved this house.
Well, that's a tour of Alpena, MI.
What do you think?