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Midland Business District, West Bay City

View looking northeast from Henry and Midland streets.
View from Henry Street. The corner store is "Billings 5 & 10".
Three buildings down is the Westown Theater (with marquee).

Wenona/West Bay City/Bay City:

In 1865, the "Sage, McGraw and Company" built a huge sawmill on the west side of the river across from Bay City. To meet the needs of their workers, they built a "company town" that would become the village of Wenona, named after the mother of Hiawatha in Longfellow's poem, "Hiawatha". Wenona grew rapidly. In 1877, the villages of Banks and Salzburg joined with Wenona and formed West Bay City a separate community from Bay City on the east bank of the river. In 1905, West Bay City with a population of about 15,000 merged with Bay City creating the current geographical area of Bay City.

Historical Buildings of the Midland Business District:

Many of the original buildings still service the needs of businesses and their customers today and a great effort has been placed on preservation of the buildings that are still standing. Only a short distance from the rivers edge and Veterans Memorial Park, the district flourishes with many fine restaurants and shops making it a popular destination of many visiting the Bay City area.

Brief history of Buildings.

Babo Block: Built in 1869, the Babo block was the first three-story building on Midland street. Charles Babo & Sons Grocery and a number of other commercial businesses were it's first tenants. The second and third levels had apartments where many of the first level business owners lived. The building included a meeting hall for their use.

Bunnel House: The Bunnel House stood where the Arlington Hotel is today, a popular spot for evening enjoyment. The Bunnel Brothers built this house (hotel) in 1868 replacing a wood framed hotel that was destroyed by fire. Louis Potter purchased the hotel in 1882 and changed it's name to the Arlington Hotel. The Arlington was the primary hotel and has been a local favorite tavern for over a 100 years now. A picture of the Arlington Hotel {Image} may be seen in the Bay City General Pictorial.

Clark Block: Major Newcomb Clark, was the first president of Wenona village which later became West Bay City. He is credited with building the first brick store on Midland street. He came to Wenona in 1865 after serving in the Civil War. In 1867, he built a multi-level red brick building which housed his stationery business and served as a home for his family.

Fisher Block: The Fisher block was built by Sidney O. Fisher {Image}, a well-known lumberman. In 1882, he built the building on property that was the site of one of West Bay City's worst fires. The upper level of the building was used for City Hall offices and a small elegant opera house. The street level was leased to merchants. A unique feature of the building was an underground shopping arcade. A glass store front was located at south side that is still evident today.

Lewis Block: Built in 1884 by the Lewis brothers who were in the hardware business. The building included office space on the upper level. Frank and John Mohr, also in the hardware business, purchased the building in the mid-1890s.

Loose Block: J.F. Wilham Loose, a furniture dealer and undertaker, built this building around 1890. The building features an attractive design on the exterior of the upper level made of ceramic tiles.

Lumbermen's State Bank: The Lumbermen's State Bank was built in 1881 at the time of the lumber boom era of West Bay City. S.O. Fisher {Image}, a well known lumber baron was the President of the bank. Mr. Fisher was involved in several venture businesses with his friend George Mosher. It is worth noting that Fisher street bears his name as well as the small community of Fisherville just west of Auburn. The next time you are in the Midland street take a stroll to the west side of the building where an etched glass window bears his monogram.

Moots Block: This building was the second brick structure on Midland street and it included arched windows on the upper level. It was built about 1868 by William Moots for his hardware store. The upper level like many of this era was utilized for apartments. The upper level also contained the Knights of Pythias Hall.

Mosher Block: The Mosher building was built in 1882 by George Mosher and became one of the most prominent structures in the Midland street district with it's oranamented pediment on the third level rising above the other buildings of the area. The store house his hardware businesse and other commercial businesses. People's Savings Bank opened an office there in 1899. George Mosher participated in several business partnerships with S.O. Fisher during this time period.

Opera House, West Bay City: This majestic buildings built in 1892 stood out because of its size and it was built to the limits of the lot that it sat on. The street level housed many stores including a lavish Turkish bath. The City Hall for West Bay City was located here before the West Bay City with Bay City in 1903.

Sage Block: In 1873 the Sage building, at Jane and McGraw streets, was built to replace the former office building of the Sage & McGraw Company owned by New Yorkers from Ithaca -- Henry Sage {Image} and John McGraw {Image}, who founded the village of Wenona, which evolved from initial as a company town of their huge sawmill.

Swart Block: Built in 1891, the Swart building was easy to recognize with it's three-faced turret clock and quarter hipped roof. It can correctly be said that Stephen Swart was quite proud of his new home for his jewelry business that includes his name carved on the east side of the building near the small mansard roof that can still be seen today along with the year it was built on the turret that once held a large clock.

Historical Images: {click to enlarge}

Frank & Joes Bar on Linn St, now Steamers bar & restaurant.
Horseless buggy passing in front of Swart's Jewelry store on Linn St.
Baseball players on porch of Arlington Hotel on Linn St.
Early 1900s:
Michigan Central R.R. depot on Marquette.

Related Notes & Pages
{View 1867 Birdseye Map}
In 1867 Bay City represented little more than the present east side downtown area. To its south was the village of Portsmouth and across the river was the small village of Wenona.

{1880s Third St. Bridge}

People had to use a boat or barge to cross the river prior to building the Third Street wooden bridge, which once directly connected the city's two main business districts.
Related pages:
Babo, Charles
Mohr Block
Sage & McGraw Sawmill
People Referenced
Babo, Charles
Clark, Newcomb (Major)
Bunnel (bros.)
Fisher, Sidney O.{}
Lewis (bros.)
Loose, J.F. Wilham
McGraw, John{}
Mohr, Frank
Mohr, John
Mosher, George
Moots, William
Potter, Louis
Sage, Henry{}
Swart, Stephen
{} = Additional history.
Subjects Referenced
Arlington Hotel
Babo Block
Babo & Sons Grocery
Banks (village)
Bunnel House
City Hall
Civil War
Clark Block
Fisher Block
Furniture dealer
Hardware store
Knights of Pythias Hall
Lewis Block
Loose Block
Lumberman's State Bank
Moots Block
Mosher Block
New York
Opera House
People's Savings Bank
Sage Block
Sage & McGraw Company
Salzburg (village)
Swart Block
Wenona (village)
Related Images
- 2002 Photos -
Midland St.
(view east from Linn)
Arlington Hotel
(Linn & John)
Fisher block
(Midland & Linn)
Mosher block
(Midland & Linn)
Westown Theater
(Midland St.)
- Heritage Photos -
Swart block
(John & Linn)
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