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Bay City, Michigan
Midland Street Commercial District
Location within Bay County
Location within Bay County
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Country United States
State Michigan
County Bay
Settled 1837
Incorporated 1865
 • Type Council–manager
 • City 11.20 sq mi (29.01 km2)
 • Land 10.17 sq mi (26.33 km2)
 • Water 1.03 sq mi (2.68 km2)
 • Urban
39.78 sq mi (103.03 km2)
585 ft (178.3 m)
 • City 34,932
 • Estimate 
 • Density 3,218.28/sq mi (1,242.63/km2)
 • Urban
70,585 (US: 390th)
 • Metro
107,110 (US: 335th)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s) 989
FIPS code 26-06020
GNIS feature ID 0620777

Bay City is a city in Bay County in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located near the base of the Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 34,932, and it is the principal city of the Bay City Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Saginaw-Midland-Bay City Combined Statistical Area. The city, along with nearby Midland and Saginaw, form the Greater Tri-Cities region of Central Michigan, which has more recently been called the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The city is geographically divided by the Saginaw River, and travel between the east and west sides of the city is made possible by four modern bascule-type drawbridges: Liberty Bridge, Veterans Memorial Bridge, Independence Bridge, and Lafayette Avenue Bridge, which allow large ships to travel easily down the river. The city is served by MBS International Airport, located in nearby Freeland, and James Clements Municipal Airport.


Bay City Street Map, 1898
Bay City Street Map, 1898
Bay County past and present (1918) (14593126068)
Third Street Bridge, with Sage Mill in background, 1918. The bridge collapsed in 1976 after being hit by a freighter.

Leon Tromble is regarded as the first settler within the limits of Bay County, in an area which would become Bay City. In 1831, he built a log cabin on the east bank of the Saginaw river. Bay City was first established in 1837, and was incorporated as a city in 1865. In 1834 John B. Trudell built a log-cabin near the present corner of Seventeenth and Broadway. Trudell later purchased land that extended from his residence north along the river to what later became the location for the Industrial Brownhoist, making him the first permanent resident of what has become Bay County. Bay City became the largest community in the county and the location of the county seat of government. Most of the county's agencies and associations are located here. The city shares common borders with Essexville and the townships of Bangor, Frankenlust, Hampton, Merritt, Monitor, and Portsmouth.

Bay City was originally known as "Lower Saginaw," and fell within the boundaries of Saginaw County The Post Office changed its name to Bay City on March 22, 1858.

While Saginaw had the first white settlement in this area in 1819, larger ships had difficulty navigating the shallower water near the Saginaw settlement. Due to this fact, many of the early pioneers moved to Lower Saginaw as it became clear its deeper waters made it a better location for the growth of industry which relied on shipping. By 1860, Lower Saginaw had become a bustling community of about 2,000 people with several mills and many small businesses in operation. In 1865, the village of Bay City was incorporated as a city. Rapid economic growth took place during this time period, with lumbering, milling, and shipbuilding creating many jobs. The early industrialists in the area used the Saginaw River as a convenient means to float lumber to the mills and factories and as a consequence amass large fortunes. Many of the mansions built during this era are registered as historical landmarks by the state and federal government.

In 1873, Charles C. Fitzhugh, Jr., a Bay City pioneer, and his wife, Jane, purchased land and built a home on property bounded by Washington, Saginaw, Ninth and Tenth Streets, which later became the location for City Hall. Fitzhugh dealt on a large scale in wild lands and farms, being an agent for over 25,000 acres (100 km2) of land in Bay County. During this time, Washington Avenue was primarily developed with residential homes. Businesses were concentrated along Water Street near the Saginaw River. As time went on, businesses started to expand along Washington Avenue. In 1891, the Fitzhughs sold the land to the City of Bay City for $8,500 "to be used for the erection of a City Hall and offices and for no other purposes whatever."

Until 1905, the City of Bay City was limited to the east bank of the Saginaw River. when West Bay City was annexed.

During the latter half of the 19th century Bay City was the home of several now-closed industries including many sawmills and shipbuilders. The Defoe Shipbuilding Company, which ceased operations December 31, 1975 built destroyer escorts, guided missile destroyers, and patrol craft for the United States Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. To maintain this strong Naval heritage, the Saginaw Valley Naval Ship Museum worked through the Naval Sea Systems Command to bring the USS Edson (DD-946) to Bay City as a museum ship. It was finally delivered to its temporary home in Essexville, Michigan on August 7, 2012. Another important part of the city's industrial history is Industrial Brownhoist, which was well known for its construction of large industrial cranes.

Notable events

In September 1990, the tankship MV Jupiter was unloading gasoline at the Total Petroleum Terminal. A passing cargo ship, MV Buffalo, moving at excessive speed, created a wake that caused Jupiter to break free of its berth. A fire and explosion ensued, and one man drowned. There was considerable legal action taken, ultimately resulting in an adjudication that was subsequently appealed by the owners of Buffalo. The findings of the Court of Appeals upheld the original decision, which assigned 50% of the responsibility to Buffalo (for her excessive speed), 25% to the dock operator (for rotten wood pilings) and 25% to Jupiter (for improper procedures in unloading her cargo).

In January 2009, Bay City's wholly owned municipal power company, Bay City Electric Light and Power, installed a "limiter" device to restrict the receipt of power to the home of Marvin Schur, a 93-year-old customer who had failed to pay an outstanding bill in excess of $1,000. The Bay City Electric Light and Power policy was to install the limiter, and to notify the customer by trying to collect the amount due. City employees failed to knock on the door, and it was later found that Schur had a check already made out and had failed to mail it. Schur died from hypothermia in his home a few days later. The day following his death, Bay City Electric Light and Power removed the limiters from all households. It was later learned that Schur had willed his estate, estimated by family to be in excess of $500,000, to Bay Regional Medical Center.

On October 12, 2010 the historic 113-year-old City Hall sustained significant damage as the result of an attic fire which caused the sprinkler system to run for nearly two hours. Most of the damage to the building was water damage from the sprinkler system and water used to fight the fire. The fire started in the midst of a $1.6 million roofing project. After an investigation, it was determined that a worker was using a grinder to cut off bolts in the area where the fire started, and sparks from the work started the blaze. Fire crews were on the scene for nearly five hours fighting the hard-to-access fire.


  • West Bay City is a section of the city on the West side of the Saginaw River that was a former city.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.21 square miles (29.03 km2), of which 10.17 square miles (26.34 km2) is land and 1.04 square miles (2.69 km2) is water. Despite declining population, Bay City remains (by a narrow margin over Port Huron) as the largest U.S. city by population on or near Lake Huron, much smaller than the largest cities on the other four Great Lakes: (Chicago, Toronto, Cleveland, and Thunder Bay).

Bay City, along with Saginaw, and Midland make up the Tri-Cities Area, a sub-region of Flint/Tri-Cities. Bay City is sometimes regarded as being part of the greater Thumb of Michigan Area, which is also a sub-region of the Flint/Tri-Cities.


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Bay City has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps.



Major highways

  • I-75
  • BS I-75
  • US 10
  • US 23
  • M-13

  • Conn. M‑13: This short freeway was once a segment of US 23. It is now a connector freeway between I-75 and M-13.
  • M-15
  • M-25
  • M-84
  • M-247


Four modern bascule bridges allow transportation across the Saginaw River, which separates the East and West sides of Bay City. Lafayette Avenue Bridge, opened in 1938, carries M-13 and M-84 over the river. The Veterans Memorial Bridge, opened in 1957, carries M-25 over the river. Independence Bridge, opened in 1976, carries Truman Parkway over the river, replacing the earlier Belinda Street Bridge (built in 1893). Liberty Bridge, opened in 1990, connects Vermont Street (on the west side of the river) and Woodside Avenue (on the east side).


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,583
1870 7,064 346.2%
1880 20,693 192.9%
1890 27,839 34.5%
1900 27,628 −0.8%
1910 45,166 63.5%
1920 47,554 5.3%
1930 47,355 −0.4%
1940 47,956 1.3%
1950 52,523 9.5%
1960 53,604 2.1%
1970 49,449 −7.8%
1980 41,593 −15.9%
1990 38,936 −6.4%
2000 36,817 −5.4%
2010 34,932 −5.1%
2019 (est.) 32,717 −6.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
2018 Estimate

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 34,932 people, 14,436 households, and 8,546 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,434.8 inhabitants per square mile (1,326.2/km2). There were 15,923 housing units at an average density of 1,565.7 per square mile (604.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 89.7% White, 3.5% Black, 0.6% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 1.8% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.5% of the population.

There were 14,436 households, of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% were married couples living together, 16.6% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.8% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38, and the average family size was 3.04.

The median age in the city was 35.8 years. 24.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 9.7% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.2% were from 25 to 44; 25.8% were from 45 to 64; and 12.3% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.7% male and 51.3% female.


Bay City Fireworks Festival
Bay City's Firework Festival – 2005

Bay City is well known in Mid-Michigan for its numerous festivals and celebrations which take place during the summer months. Among them are the River Roar, St. Stan's Polish Festival, the Bay City Fireworks Festival, and the River of Time living history reenactment. Many of these events take place along one or more banks of the Saginaw River, often in Wenonah Park on the east bank or the larger Veterans Memorial Park on the west bank.

The Bay County Historical Museum, located on Washington Avenue, is the designated repository for the records of the Patrol Craft Sailors Association and also contains numerous displays on local and regional history. Over the past several years, the museum has expanded significantly. It is housed in the former armory building on Washington Avenue, adjacent to the historic City Hall.

The Bay County Library System includes two public libraries located in Bay City.

The official Bay City flag is blue with the city logo on it. It has been changed from the original design.

The Hell's Half Mile Film and Music Festival is held annually in September. The festival features a mix of independent films with live indie music.

In popular culture

The Bay City Rollers, a Scottish band, was named after this city after the band randomly threw a dart at a map.

The entertainer Madonna, who was born in Bay City, referred to her birthplace as "a stinky, little town in Northern Michigan" on national television.

Sites of interest

  • Appledore Tall Ships
  • The Arts Center/Studio 23
  • State Theatre
  • Delta College Planetarium & Learning Center
  • Bay County Civic Arena
  • The Bay County Historical Museum
  • Bay City State Recreation Area

Sister cities


Top employers

According to Bay City's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Bay Regional Medical Center 1,749
2 Bay City Public Schools 921
3 Bay County 525
4 S. C. Johnson & Son 398
5 City of Bay City 345
6 Bay City Powertrain 325
7 DoubleTree 133
8 TCF Financial Corporation 128
9 Independent Bank 125
10 F. P. Horak 124

Michigan Sugar is also based in Bay City.


Bay City is the home to the Tri-City Ice Hawks of the United States Premier Hockey League.


The Sage library

Primary/secondary education

Bay City Public Schools operates eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and three high schools.

  • Bay City Central High School
  • Bay City Western High School
  • T. L. Handy Middle School
  • Bay City Western Middle School

Bangor Township Schools operates three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

  • John Glenn High School

Essexville Hampton Public Schools operates three elementary schools, one junior high schools, and one high school.

  • Garber High School

Bay Area Catholic Schools operates four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

  • All Saints Central High School

Bay-Arenac Community High School operates a charter alternative secondary school.

  • Bay-Arenac Community High School

Mosaica Education Inc. operates a charter school, Bay County Public School Academy, serving grades kindergarten through 8th grade.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has three grade schools in Bay City: Bethel Lutheran School (Pre-K-8), St. John's Lutheran School (Pre-K-8), and Trinity Lutheran School (Pre-K-8).


  • Delta College – Located in nearby University Center, with an off-campus location in downtown Bay City
  • Saginaw Valley State University – Located in nearby University Center

Notable people

  • Bob Allman – Chicago Bears player (1936) (Bay City Central HS)
  • Emil Anneke – German Forty-Eighter and US politician
  • Robert Armstrong (1890–1973) - actor, best known for starring role in King Kong
  • Rolf Armstrong (1889–1960) – painter and pin-up artist
  • Edmund Arnold – father of modern news design
  • Warren Avis – founder of Avis Rent A Car
  • Howie Auer — Philadelphia Eagles player (1933)
  • James A. Barcia – U.S. Representative, state representative, and state senator.
  • Gary Bautell – military radio broadcaster with the American Forces Network
  • Lester O. Begick - Michigan state legislator and businessman
  • James G. Birney (1792–1857) - presidential candidate 1844 and 1848 Liberty Party, a founder of Bay City
  • Ruth Born (1925–2020) - All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player
  • Nathan B. Bradley - first mayor of Bay City, U.S. Representative, state senator
  • Betsy Brandt - actress, Breaking Bad, The Michael J. Fox Show
  • Eric Devendorf – McDonald's All-American basketball recruit from Bay City Central HS, former starter at Syracuse University
  • Mary L. Doe- (1836-1913) - suffragette
  • Spoke Emery – Major League Baseball player
  • Eric Esch – Super Heavyweight Champion boxer, kickboxer, and martial artist
  • Troy Evans (b.1977) – NFL linebacker, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints
  • John Garrels – silver and bronze Olympic medal winner
  • Sanford M. Green, Michigan jurist and politician
  • Ernie Gust – Major League Baseball player
  • Harriet Hammond (1899–1991) - silent-film actress
  • Bill Hewitt – Chicago Bears 1932–1936, Philadelphia Eagles 1937–1939, Phil-Pitt Steagles, Pro Football Hall of Fame
  • George W. Hotchkiss - nineteenth century lumber dealer and journalist
  • Alex Izykowski – 2006 Winter Olympics bronze medalist in short track speed skating
  • Edward Jablonski (1923–2004) - author, music archivist and aviation-aerial warfare historian
  • Jim Kanicki – Cleveland Browns, and New York Giants 1960–62 (Bay City Central HS)
  • Thomas G. Kavanagh - Michigan Supreme Court justice
  • Bruce LaFrance – Tantric musician
  • Bob LaLonde - Wyoming state representative
  • George Kid Lavigne – boxer, world lightweight champion 1896, and inductee of International Boxing Hall of Fame (1998)
  • Madonna (born 1958) – singer-songwriter, actress, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy and Golden Globe award winner, was born in Bay City; she grew up in Rochester Hills
  • Terry McDermott – 500m speed skating gold medalist in Innsbruck 1964 Winter Olympics
  • John McGraw – businessman, co-founder of Wenona, now part of Bay City, Cornell University philanthropist
  • Tyler McVey (1912–2003) - actor
  • Isaac Marston - Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
  • Richard R. Murray - founder of Equity Schools Inc., inventor of Cristo Rey Network school model
  • James Joseph Raby – Rear Admiral, USN.
  • Emil F. Reinhardt (1888–1969) - Major General, US Army, commander of 69th Infantry Division during WWII; first US commander to make connection with allied Russian troops
  • Trenton Robinson - safety, Michigan State football player and 2012 NFL Draft pick
  • Doug Sharp – 2002 Olympic bronze medal winner
  • Robert Rechsteiner (Rick Steiner) and Scott Rechsteiner (Scott Steiner) – professional wrestlers
  • Doug Taitt (1902-1970) - MLB outfielder
  • Annie Edson Taylor – first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and live to tell the tale
  • Bob TraxlerU.S. Representative, state representative
  • Charles B. Warren (1870–1936) - Distinguished Service Medal recipient, U.S. Ambassador to Japan and Mexico
  • Dennis Wirgowski – NFL player 1970–1973 New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles
  • Elizebeth Thomas Werlein (1883–1946), conservationist of the French Quarter of New Orleans.
  • Patrick Yandall – jazz guitarist
  • Frederick Morrell Zeder – Automotive Hall of Fame member; engineer for Allis Chalmers, Willys, and Chrysler
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