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Alpena, Michigan
—  City  —
The Alpena Light at the Alpena Municipal Marina
Nickname(s): A-Town
Motto: Warm and Friendly Port
Location of Alpena within Alpena County, Michigan
Coordinates: 45°3′42″N 83°25′58″W / 45.06167, -83.43278Coordinates: 45°3′42″N 83°25′58″W / 45.06167, -83.43278
Country United States
State Michigan
County Alpena
Animickee 1840
Alpena 1871
 • Mayor Matt Waligora
 • Total 9.23 sq mi (23.91 km2)
 • Land 8.54 sq mi (22.12 km2)
 • Water 0.69 sq mi (1.79 km2)  7.48%
Elevation 591 ft (180 m)
Population (2010)[2]
 • Total 10,483
 • Estimate (2012[3]) 10,340
 • Density 1,227.5/sq mi (473.9/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 49707
Area code(s) 989
FIPS code 26-01740[4]
GNIS feature ID 0620017[5]

Alpena County Courthouse in Alpena

Alpena /ælˈpnə/ is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Alpena County.[6] It is considered to be part of northern Michigan. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located in the city. The population was 10,483 at the 2010 census. The population swells with a large number of visitors in the summer.

Despite its small population, it is by far the largest city in the sparsely populated Northeast Michigan (lower peninsula) area, serving as its commercial and cultural hub. It is considered to be one of the two anchor cities of Northern Michigan, along with Traverse City. The Alpena Regional Medical Center is a federally designated rural regional medical referral center, and is the largest employer in the city.[7]


It was originally part of Anomickee County founded in 1840, which in 1843 was changed to Alpena, a pseudo-Native American word — a neologism coined by Henry Schoolcraft, meaning something like "a good partridge country."[8][9][10] This was part of a much larger effort to rename a great many of the Michigan counties at the time.[9]

The region, known as the "Sunrise Side" from its location on the east shoreline of Michigan, was first a site of commercial fishing activity and is still home to extensive commercial fishing activities. Later the region, like much of Michigan, was shaped by the logging era of the 1800s. Today, Alpena is known for its limestone quarry, one of the largest in the world, owned and operated by the Lafarge corporation and is a major cement manufacturer and exporter. While at one time the largest in the world, the cement plant is now just the largest cement plant for Lafarge in North America with an annual capacity of almost 3 million tons of cement.[11] Alpena is also the world headquarters of Besser Company, a manufacturer of concrete block machines. Tourism (fishing, hunting, camping and a variety of water sports) is also important to Alpena's economy.

In February 2007 Bizjournals ranked Alpena as the hottest retirement destination in the Great Lakes area[12] and #44 nationally.[13]

The city has a number of notable buildings, including the Art deco Alpena County Courthouse and Temple Beth El, one of the oldest synagogues in the United States.

Geography and climate[]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.23 square miles (23.91 km2), of which, 8.54 square miles (22.12 km2) of it is land and 0.69 square miles (1.79 km2) is water.[1] The city is on the shore of Lake Huron's Thunder Bay, with Alpena Township surrounding it on land.

Access to natural resources and water transportation has been important in development of the community. Light stations and lighthouses[14][15] surround Alpena.[16] Several islands off the coast in Thunder Bay are part of the Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and Scarecrow Island is part of the Michigan Islands Wilderness Area. Charity, Little Charity, Scarecrow, and Thunder Bay Islands form the Lake Huron division of the Michigan Islands NWR. There are lighthouses on Charity (abandoned) and Thunder Bay Islands.

Climate data for Alpena, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 55
Average high °F (°C) 26.7
Average low °F (°C) 12.0
Record low °F (°C) −21
Precipitation inches (mm) 1.70
Snowfall inches (cm) 14.8
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 14.2 10.6 10.7 11.2 11.4 10.8 10.3 11.2 12.3 12.6 12.3 13.5 141.1
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 9.1 6.5 4.1 1.3 .1 0 0 0 0 .1 2.0 6.8 30.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 108.5 135.6 195.3 222.0 279.0 294.0 316.2 257.3 195.0 142.6 84.0 74.4 2,303.9
Source: The Weather Channel (records),[17] NOAA (normals, 1971–2000),[18] HKO (sun)[19]



A U.S. Air Force Reserve Bell HH-1N Huey (s/n 69-6612) taking off on maneuvers during a reserve rescue exercise at Phelps Collins Air National Guard Base

Alpena County Regional Airport (IATA: APN, ICAO: KAPN, FAA LID: APN) is the northeast lower peninsula of Michigan's main commercial airport and handles daily Delta Connection flights to Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul operated by SkyWest Airlines. It is a public-use airport located in Wilson Township, Michigan six miles (10 km) west of the central business district of Alpena. The Michigan Air National Guard's Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center co-utilizes the airfield.


Alpena is situated along the Lake State Railway, formerly the Detroit and Mackinac Railway (D&M).[20] Earlier railroads that served Alpena were built and owned by the Alger Smith and Co. logging company: (1) the Detroit, Bay City and Alpena Railroad which entered Alpena from the south around 1886; and (2) the Alpena and Northern Railroad.[21]


  • Indian Trails provides daily intercity bus service between St. Ignace and Bay City, Michigan.[22] This route doubles as the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service for the area.

Major highways[]

  • US 23 serves Alpena on its way along the Lake Huron shoreline. It has been designated the "Sunrise Side Coastal Highway", and runs along (or parallels) the Lake Huron shore. To the north, it passes Grand Lake and Long Lake, then to Rogers City, through Cheboygan, and on to Mackinaw City, where it ends at I-75 and the Mackinac Bridge.[23] On US 23 as it crosses Squaw Bay just south of Alpena exists a sign which notes that it rests on the 45th parallel, indicating travelers are halfway between the equator and the North Pole.[24] This is one of 29 places (six are in Michigan) in the U.S.A. where such signs are known to exist.[25] US 23 continues south to Ossineke then further south to Oscoda and Tawas City. US 23 south joins I-75 near Standish where it continues south downstate.
  • M-32 ends its 100-mile (160 km) easterly route from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron traversing the northern lower peninsula within downtown Alpena[26] at the intersection of US 23.[27]
  • M-65 is a few miles west of town, but is a more direct route to the south than US 23, which meanders along the lake shore through many villages and towns.


2010 census[]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 10,483 people, 4,734 households, and 2,565 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,227.5 inhabitants per square mile (473.9 /km2). There were 5,278 housing units at an average density of 618.0 per square mile (238.6 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 96.8% White, 0.5% African American, 0.4% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.0% of the population.

There were 4,734 households of which 24.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.3% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 45.8% were non-families. 39.4% 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 2.13 and the average family size was 2.84.

The median age in the city was 42.5 years. 20.7% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.7% were from 25 to 44; 27.9% were from 45 to 64; and 19.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 47.7% male and 52.3% female.

2000 census[]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 11,304 people, 4,874 households, and 2,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,348.9 per square mile (520.8/km2). There were 5,200 housing units at an average density of 620.5 per square mile (239.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.66% White, 0.42% African American, 0.43% Native American, 0.48% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.09% from other races, and 0.91% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.59% of the population.

There were 4,874 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.2% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 23.0% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 88.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,353, and the median income for a family was $40,056. Males had a median income of $34,534 versus $21,951 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,476. About 10.4% of families and 13.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.5% of those under age 18 and 6.6% of those age 65 or over.


Alpena, along with the rest of Alpena County and portions of Presque Isle County, is served by Alpena Public Schools. Alpena Public Schools was established as the first county-wide school district in the state of Michigan in 1963. The district has one high school, a junior high, an alternative/adult high school, and six elementary schools. The elementary schools are Besser, Ella White, Hinks, Lincoln, Sanborn, and Wilson Elementary Schools. Geographically, it is the largest school district in the Lower Peninsula, encompassing more than 620 square miles (1,600 km2).

There are three private schools in Alpena. All Saints Catholic School is affiliated with the four Roman Catholic parishes in the city (St. Anne's, St. Bernard's, St. John the Baptist and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception) and provides preschool to 6th grade education. Immanuel Lutheran School is supported by the Immanuel Lutheran Church and has preschool to 8th grade classes. The Alpena SDA Elementary School is a Seventh-Day Adventist school that has offers elementary education. Bingham Arts Academy, a charter school run by Mosaica, also provides classes from preschool to 8th grade.

Alpena is also home to Alpena Community College. ACC is a two-year associates program that has partnerships with Spring Arbor University and several other Michigan institutions. Within Alpena Community College is the World Center for Concrete Technology (WCCT). The WCCT draws a worldwide enrollment of students for classes in Concrete Technology, including a Master Blockmakers Degree for 5-class-accomplished students.


While tourism is an important component of the area's economy, both Alpena and Rogers City have an industrial base. In particular, Alpena is home to Lafarge's cement plant and to Besser Company (maker of a concrete block making machinery), as well as a drywall board manufacturing facility owned by Decorative Panels International. Rogers City is the location of the world's largest limestone quarry, which is used in steel making in the Great Lakes and Rust Belt regions.

Alpena's primary shopping center is the Alpena Mall, the only enclosed shopping mall in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, featuring approximately 20 stores, with JCPenney and Gordon Food Service as the anchor stores.[28]

Fletcher Street Brewing Company is in Old Town on the Thunder Bay River.[29]

Alpena is also home to the Alpena Thunder hockey team.

Historical markers[]

There are seven recognized historical markers in the city:[30]

  • Alpena City Hall
  • Alpena County Courthouse
  • The Daniel Carter Family, Alpena'a first settlers.
  • First Congregational Church [Alpena]
  • Monarch Mill
  • St. Bernard Catholic Church
  • World's Largest Cement Plant



  • The Alpena News[31] is the daily newspaper of record for much of northeastern lower peninsula of Michigan.
  • Daily editions of the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News are also available throughout the area.


Alpena is home to several radio stations.


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WHAK 960 Classic Hits Rogers City
WATZ 1450 Talk/News Alpena


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WPHN 90.5 Religious Gaylord
WCML 91.7 Public Alpena
WFDX 92.5 Classic Hits Atlanta
WKJZ 94.9/98.1 Variety Hits Hillman
WATZ 99.3/96.7 Country Alpena
WHAK 99.9 Oldies Rogers City
WWTH 100.7 Classic Rock Oscoda
WMJZ 101.5 Variety Hits Gaylord
WKJC 104.7 Country Tawas City
WGFM 105.1/103.7 Rock Cheboygan
WHSB 107.7 Hot AC Alpena


Alpena is the third smallest (208) Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) in the United States.

There is only one locally programmed terrestrial Television station located within the Alpena DMA:

  • Channel 11, cable 10: WBKB-TV - (CBS, Fox on DT2 and cable 13)

Rebroadcasts of other television stations include:

  • Channel 6, cable 6: WCML-TV - (PBS) - feed of WCMU-TV
  • Channel 18: W18BT - (TBN) - national feed

Cable only television:

  • Cable 3: Alpena Community College educational television
  • Cable 21: "Alpena CW" - (The CW)

Northeast Michigan is also served by selected major network affiliates from the Northern Michigan and Mid-Michigan DMAs, as well as CBC Television programming from CBMT in Montreal. Cable television service is provided within Alpena and many outlying communities by Charter Communications.

Annual cultural and sporting events[]

There are many recurring local activities. A calendar is available.[32]

  • Alpena Blues Festival, late June at The Alpena Fair Grounds and Merchant Building.[33]
  • Alpena County Fair, Alpena County Fairgrounds.
  • Besser Museum Log Cabin Day, last Sunday in June. Approved by the Michigan legislature passed a bill to make Log Cabin Day an annual event to be held on the last Sunday in June. The Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan spotlights their own two log cabins on this day and celebrates by offering old fashioned, family-pleasing activities.
  • Garden Walk fundraiser for Shelter, Inc, nine gardens in July.
  • Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival second weekend in October, which provides funding and support for lighthouses[34]
  • Habitat for Humanity-Alpena Area "Drive to Build" Charity Golf Outing
  • Hillman Street Drags, first weekend in July, downtown, Hillman, Michigan.
  • Lafarge Downtown Alpena Riverfest, in mid-June. Family event centered on the Thundre Bay River, celebrating Alpena's lumbering history. Professional lumberjack shows, entertainment, music, storytelling, chainsaw carving, food, fun and games.
  • Michigan Brown Trout Festival, a week in mid-July.
  • Presque Isle Harbor Wooden Boat Show, mid-June.
  • Ramblin' Rods Car Show, second weekend in August at Mich-E-Kewis Park, Alpena.[35]
  • Sunrise Side Heritage Bike Ride, first weekend in September. Ride Along Lake Huron Shoreline (US 23) from the Arenac County fairgrounds to Mackinac Bridge then South to West Branch on M-33 and M-55 . This is a 400-mile long organized ride.[36]
  • Thunder Bay Arts Council's "Art on the Bay" at beautiful Bay View Park in Alpena. A Juried Fine Arts and Fine Crafts Fair which coincides with The Michigan Brown Trout Festival.
  • Thunder Bowl Lanes has hosted a long-running annual 6-man team Ten-pin bowling tournament in March. It also occasionally hosts the Northern Michigan Men's and Women's championships.
  • Thunder Bay Maritime Festival is presented by the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve in Alpena, MI.

Local cultural institutions[]

Thunder Bay Theater

  • Thunder Bay Theatre is northeast Michigan's only professional theatrical group, and regularly presents productions.[37]
  • Youth Sailing Instruction and Training is offered by the Alpena Yacht Club.[38]

Local libraries, museums and landmarks[]

  • The Alpena County Library
  • The Jesse M. Besser Museum for Northeastern Michigan and Planetarium.[39]
  • Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center,[40] also known as Thunder Bay National Maritime Sanctuary[41] and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Notable people[]

Notable people were born in, or have lived in, Alpena, include:[42]

  • Paul Bunker, 1901 and 1902 All-American football player at Army and College Football Hall of Famer
  • William Comstock, 33rd governor of Michigan, also buried there
  • Leon Czolgosz, assassin of U.S. President William McKinley
  • Bob Devaney, former football coach for several college and highschool football teams
  • Robert L. Emerson, politician
  • Stanley Grenz, Christian theologian
  • MLB players Blaise Ilsley, Dan Rohn and Kevin Young
  • Betty Mahmoody, author of Not Without My Daughter (born in Alma, Michigan)
  • Harvey Marlatt, former Detroit Pistons player
  • Michael Bailey Smith, actor
  • K.J. Stevens, novelist and short story writer
  • Joel Potrykus, filmmaker

Alpena in popular culture[]

  • The 1991 feature film Not Without My Daughter starring Sally Field and Alfred Molina was based upon the true story of Betty Mahmoody who was living in Alpena in 1984 during the events surrounding the film and novel of the same name.
  • Bruce Willis and the film crew of Die Hard 2 used Alpena's airport to shoot several scenes of the film. Although the location was selected because snow was expected to be integral to the movie (and was moved from Denver's Stapleton Airport which had no snow), a dearth of precipitation in Alpena necessitated the use of artificial snow.[43]
  • The nearby novelty attraction in Ossineke features "Dinosaur Gardens" a handmade collection of prehistoric animals and dinosaurs was featured in the book Roadside America[44]
  • Alpena's airport is featured in the Season 5 Home Improvement episode "Twas The Flight Before Christmas" when Tim and Al fly up to Alpena in order to attend the Binford Winter festival, and for Tim to get Jill's Present. However, a snowstorm keeps the two stranded at the airport.

See also[]

  • Alpena Light
  • Alpena Power Company
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Gaylord


  1. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  3. ^ "Population Estimates". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2013-06-03. 
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  7. ^ Alpena Regional Medical Center
  8. ^ (Fall, Winter, Spring 1990; Summer, Fall, Winter 1991; Spring, Summer, Fall 1991) "A History of the Place Names of Alpena County". Wilderness Chronicle (19, 20, 21). Retrieved on January 18, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Michigan government on place names".,1607,7-160-15481_20826_20829-54126--,00.html. Retrieved January 18, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Bibliography on Alpena County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. Retrieved January 18, 2013. 
  11. ^ Michigan Historical Markers
  12. ^ Bizjournal retirement ranking, Great Lakes
  13. ^ Bizjournal retirement ranking, national
  14. ^ "Historic Light Station Information and Photography: Michigan". United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. 
  15. ^ National Park Service. "Michigan Lighthouses" (PDF). Michigan Department of State. 
  16. ^ Alpena harbor light a/k/a Sputnik
  17. ^ "Monthly Averages for Alpena, MI (49707)". The Weather Channel. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Climatography of the United States No. 20: ALPENA WASTEWATER PL, MI 1971–2000" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Climatological Normals of Alpena". Hong Kong Observatory. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  20. ^ Detroit and Mackinac Railway pictures and history
  21. ^ Older railroads have been removed in the past years and are now used for snowmobiles. Michigan Railroad history for Alpena.
  22. ^ "BAY CITY-ALPENA-CHEBOYGAN-ST. IGNACE". Indian Trails. March 19, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-03. 
  23. ^ US 23 Highway ends photographs.
  24. ^ 45th Parallel sign picture.
  25. ^ List and map of 45th Parallel markers, with links to pictures (accessed 12/17/2007)
  26. ^ Michigan highway history, M-32.
  27. ^ Pictures of ends of M-72.
  28. ^ "Alpena Mall". Pure Michigan. Retrieved November 1, 2013. 
  29. ^ Fletcher Street Brewing Company.
  30. ^ Michigan Historic Markers
  31. ^ The Alpena News
  32. ^ Alpena Chamber of Commerce calendar of events.
  33. ^ Alpena Blues Festival.
  34. ^ Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival causes.
  35. ^ Reblin'Rods Car Show
  36. ^ Sunrise side bike ride.
  37. ^ Thunder Bay Theatre.
  38. ^ Alpena Yacht Club training
  39. ^ Besser Museum home page
  40. ^ Great Lakes Maritime Heritage CenterOfficial website
  41. ^ Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center
  42. ^ Robert E. Haltiner. "The Town That Wouldn't Die: Alpena, Michigan". MIGenWeb. 
  43. ^ Internet Movie Database, Die Hard 2.
  44. ^ Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo,

External links[]

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