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Alpena, Michigan
City of Alpena
Alpena City Hall
Alpena City Hall
Location within Alpena County
Location within Alpena County
Alpena, Michigan is located in Michigan
Alpena, Michigan
Alpena, Michigan
Location in Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
County Alpena
Settled 1835
Founded 1840
Incorporated 1871
 • Type Mayor–council
 • Total 8.86 sq mi (22.94 km2)
 • Land 8.17 sq mi (21.16 km2)
 • Water 0.69 sq mi (1.77 km2)
591 ft (180 m)
 • Total 10,483
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,218.46/sq mi (470.46/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s) 989
FIPS code 26-01740
GNIS feature ID 0620017
Alpena County Courthouse - Alpena Michigan
Alpena County Courthouse in Alpena

Alpena ( al-PEE-nə) is the only city in and county seat of Alpena County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 10,483 at the 2010 census. After Traverse City, it is the second most populated city in the Northern Michigan region. The city is surrounded by Alpena Township, but the two are administered autonomously. It is the core city of the Alpena micropolitan statistical area, which encompasses all of Alpena County and had a total population of 28,360 at the 2010 census.

Located at Thunder Bay along the shores of Lake Huron, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located in the city. The population swells with many visitors and tourists during the summer months. MidMichigan Health, which is a federally-designated rural regional medical referral center, is the largest employer in the city.


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." This was part of a much larger effort to rename a great many of the Michigan counties at the time.

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. 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.

Most of the city was lost in the Great Michigan Fire of 1871. Less than one year later, on July 12, 1872, Alpena was hit by another fire, the largest in its history, which destroyed 15 acres of homes and businesses for a total amount of 65 buildings. The blaze started in a barn and lasted for two hours, killing at least four people and causing at least $180,000 in damages. Alpena was again hit by a disastrous fire on July 11, 1888.

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

The city has a number of notable buildings, including the Art deco Alpena County Courthouse, the I.O.O.F. Centennial Building, 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. 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 surround Alpena. 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.



HH-1N USAF Reserve in Michigan 1982
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). 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.


  • Indian Trails provides daily intercity bus service between St. Ignace and Bay City, Michigan. This route is the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service for Alpena.

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. 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. This is one of 29 places (six are in Michigan) in the U.S. where such signs are known to exist. US 23 continues south to Ossineke then further south to Oscoda and Tawas City. US 23 south joins Interstate 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 at an intersection with US 23.
  • 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.



Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 6,153
1890 11,283 83.4%
1900 11,802 4.6%
1910 12,706 7.7%
1920 11,101 −12.6%
1930 12,166 9.6%
1940 12,808 5.3%
1950 13,135 2.6%
1960 14,682 11.8%
1970 13,805 −6.0%
1980 12,214 −11.5%
1990 11,354 −7.0%
2000 11,304 −0.4%
2010 10,483 −7.3%
2019 (est.) 9,956 −5.0%

2010 census

As of the census 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.

Historical markers

There are seven recognized historical markers in the city:

  • 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

Local cultural institutions

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

Local libraries, museums and landmarks

In popular culture

  • 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.


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-Holcim 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,which is closing as of 2021 the only enclosed shopping mall in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, featuring approximately 20 stores, with JCPenney and Gordon Food Service as the anchor stores. Other retailers operate in this part of town and on M-32 west of town and south on US-23.

Alpena was also home to the Alpena Thunder hockey team, until it was disbanded in 2011.


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 two 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 8th grade education. Immanuel Lutheran School is supported by the Immanuel Lutheran Church and has preschool to 8th grade classes.

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.


  • Alpena High School has hosted several FIRST Robotics Competition events.
  • Alpena High School has hosted several All-Star Band events.
  • Alpena High School has hosted several Solo & Ensemble events

Notable people

  • Jesse Besser, inventor and benefactor of the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan; lived in Alpena
  • Paul Bunker, 1901 and 1902 All-American football player; College Football Hall of Famer; born in Alpena
  • William Comstock, 33rd governor of Michigan; born in Alpena
  • Leon Czolgosz, assassin of U.S. President William McKinley; born in Alpena
  • Bob Devaney, football coach for Nebraska Cornhuskers football and Wyoming Cowboys football; College Football Hall of Famer; lived in Alpena
  • Brian Dutcher, basketball coach for San Diego State; born in Alpena
  • Jim Dutcher, former basketball head coach for University of Minnesota; born in Alpena
  • Robert L. Emerson, Michigan state Senator; born in Alpena
  • The Frost, psychedelic rock band of the '60s and '70s originated in Alpena. Several members were born there.
  • Stanley Grenz, Christian theologian; born in Alpena
  • Blaise Ilsley, pitcher for the Chicago Cubs; born in Alpena
  • Lloyd R. Leavitt, Jr., United States Air Force general; born in Alpena
  • Betty Mahmoody, author of Not Without My Daughter; lived in Alpena
  • Andrew Marwede, professional disc golfer; born in Alpena
  • Arthur William McLeod, member of the Wisconsin State Assembly; born in Alpena
  • Joel Potrykus, filmmaker (Ape (2012 film)); born in Alpena
  • Dan Rohn, infielder for the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians; born in Alpena
  • Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, Roman Catholic archbishop and diplomat; lived in Alpena
  • Michael Bailey Smith, actor (Charmed); born in Alpena
  • K. J. Stevens, novelist and short story writer; born in Alpena
  • Kevin Young, first baseman for the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates; born in Alpena

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Alpena (Míchigan) para niños

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