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mendelman

Alpena, MI - A small "big" city (Part 1)

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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.

Enjoy

Downtown Alpena - north and south sides of Thunder Bay River (the river divides the downtown)

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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. On to Part 2....

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Thanks for the pics. Ive always wondered what Alpena looked like.

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There's so much potential for these villages in Michigan, if they would only up the residential density downtown and stop worrying so much about parking - or at least with a coherent, comprehensive parking plan.

The amount of parking downtown in that first picture, especially near the water is a little ridiculous.

Thanks for the pictures!

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There's so much potential for these villages in Michigan, if they would only up the residential density downtown and stop worrying so much about parking - or at least with a coherent, comprehensive parking plan.

The amount of parking downtown in that first picture, especially near the water is a little ridiculous.

Thanks for the pictures!

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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.

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Everyone thanks for you kind words about my thread and hometown.

Michi - As you are probably aware, thinking about Alpena as a road trip town is kinda funny now living in major cities, but I guess it would be equivalent of making a road trip to Chicago from Kalamazoo.

I too was in Alpena this past X-mas visiting my family. I always like visiting Alpena, but I don't think I could ever live there again, though.

And Glick's did take part of the old K-Mart space alongwith GFS. Frischer Bigwheel died in about 1990-ish and was replaced by two interations of a Farm and Fleet type store.

As for your uncle's commute to Alpena everyday, my mom made the daily commute to Roger's City for a couple years because she was the director of the Presque Isle County Library.

For many years as a child, we did family camping at Hoeft State Park particularly every summer. I loved that campground, which I'm sure you know intimately.

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^Yes indeed! Hoeft SP and Sacred Rock, just up the shore from there. I use to spend many a night just laying on that rock with friends talking about everything and anything. The city has recently built an extensive paved network of trails along the Lake Huron shore, through town, and around the Trout River. It was completed when I left just after 1999. It is bar none the city's greatest asset. Instant success overnight. One branch of the trail goes along the lake for about 4 miles north to Hoeft SP. It's wonderful. One of my best friends worked there during HS. I worked at the Rogers City Marina.

I wonder if I ever ran into your mom at the library. It's a small world.

And I'm in agreeance with you. Though I love to visit once or twice in the summer, maybe once in the winter, I can't go back there. Loved the place until about HS, but the place could either make or break you during adolescence. :)

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I went out on a limb and attained my photos of Alpena during the holidays. Not many, but nonetheless:

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2nd Avenue: one of a few "main" retail streets. It has a draw bridge over the Thunder Bay River connecting two parts of the city. I think 2nd Avenue becomes M32 just a few blocks west of here.

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One of the two wonderful downtown movie theaters.

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The Thunder Bay Theater (stage).

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I had some friends rent a place on the upper floor of this building right after high school. It was pretty cool!

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Wuups! Angled from the car.

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Big old houses line US-23 along the Thunder Bay.

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Funky house.

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Ste. Anne's?

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Art deco! :)

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