The historic port city of Alpena sits nestled between a vast emerald forest and a clear blue bay 200 miles north of Detroit and 150 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Founded in 1871, Alpena began as an early commercial fishing port and soon grew to be one of the nation’s most profitable lumber harvesting locations. Lumber camps dotted the region and logs were floated down the Thunder Bay River to the harbor where they were sawn and/or loaded on ships to help build the rest of the nation. The first commercial harvest of timber began during the winter of 1858-59. At its peak, Alpena shipped out billions of board feet of lumber. Alpena was a thriving port ushering between 1,500 and 2,000 ships in and out of Thunder Bay annually.
Alpena has consistently been ahead of other communities with the acquirement of modern conveniences. Historic Alpena installed its first telephone just 3 years after Alexander Graham Bell received his patent; and electricity arrived just two years after Thomas Edison developed the light bulb. By the late 1890s the lumbering wealth began to wane. The residents of this oasis of the north refused to let Alpena fade off into the distance as did so many other lumbering towns. This earned Alpena the nickname, “The Boom Town that Forgot to Bust.” With a tenacious spirit and hardy ambition, Alpena has always had a knack for reinventing herself to sustain the livelihood of residents and visitors alike.
From lumbering, Alpena moved into other ventures such as manufacturing and mining. Alpena is home to one of the world’s largest shale quarries, Lafarge North America – Alpena Plant. Shale and limestone are extracted from the earth and mixed with other ingredients to make raw cement which is shipped out from Alpena via freighters on the Great Lakes. Alpena is also home to the world headquarters of Besser Manufacturing Co. In the early 1900s, Alpena residents Herman Besser and his son Jesse revolutionized the concrete building industry with the invention of advanced concrete block making machinery. Today Besser Company continues to supply the world with modern versions of this machinery. Additionally, you will find the United State’s only freshwater marine sanctuary here in Alpena. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary protects hundreds of shipwrecks resting on Lake Huron’s floor. Divers, snorkelers, kayakers, history buffs, and everyone in between venture to Alpena to learn the story these wrecks share. A state-of-the-art regional medical center, nationally acclaimed community college, strong business climate, and community oriented infrastructure make Alpena an ideal location for business, vacation, and residency.
Today Alpena is known as The Sanctuary of the Great Lakes. Positioned as the economic hub of a 4-county region, Alpena is a dynamic area revered for authentic experiences and serves as your destination base-camp for a sincerely genuine, warm, and inspiring escape. It provides comfort for families rediscovering those things that matter most in life as they refresh and reconnect in a modern community that is insulated from the stress of the busy world. It is a place where cultural heritage and history collide with relaxed outdoor adventure. Alpena is a refuge from the noise of life. Explore and discover and experience for yourself what our trailblazing forefathers fell in love with. A thriving lifestyle, quietly nestled between intriguing emerald forests and tranquil clear blue waters.