Alpena, Michigan

Alpena (/ælˈpnə/) is the only city and county seat of Alpena County in the U.S. state of Michigan.[6] 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.

Alpena, Michigan
City of Alpena
Alpena City Hall
Alpena City Hall
Location within Alpena County
Location within Alpena County
Alpena is located in Michigan
Location within the state of Michigan
Coordinates: 45°03′42″N 83°25′58″W / 45.06167°N 83.43278°W / 45.06167; -83.43278Coordinates: 45°03′42″N 83°25′58″W / 45.06167°N 83.43278°W / 45.06167; -83.43278
CountryUnited States
 • TypeMayor–council
 • MayorMatt Waligora
 • Mayor pro temCindy Johnson
 • ManagerRachel Smolinski
 • Total8.86 sq mi (22.94 km2)
 • Land8.17 sq mi (21.16 km2)
 • Water0.69 sq mi (1.77 km2)
591 ft (180 m)
 • Total10,483
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,218.46/sq mi (470.46/km2)
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code(s)
Area code(s)989
FIPS code26-01740[4]
GNIS feature ID0620017[5]
WebsiteOfficial website

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.[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]

Most of the city was lost in the Great Michigan Fire of 1871.[11] 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[12] for a total amount of 65 buildings.[13] The blaze started in a barn and lasted for two hours, killing at least four people and causing at least $180,000 (equivalent to $3,840,000 in 2019) in damages.[14][15][16] Alpena was again hit by a disastrous fire on July 11, 1888.[15][16]

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 climateEdit

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) (7.48%) is water.[17] The city is on the shore of Lake Huron's Thunder Bay, with Alpena Township surrounding it on land.

Alpena has a humid continental climate (Dfb) with warm summers along with cool nights, moderated by nearby Lake Huron and cold, snowy winters with annual snowfall averaging 84 inches (210 cm).[18]



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).[23] 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.[24]


Major highwaysEdit

  •   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.[26] This is one of 29 places (six are in Michigan) in the U.S. where such signs are known to exist.[27] 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.
2019 (est.)9,956[3]−5.0%

2010 censusEdit

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 censusEdit

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 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


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, the only enclosed shopping mall in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, featuring approximately 20 stores, with JCPenney and Gordon Food Service as the anchor stores.[29] Other retailers operate in this part of town and on M-32 west of town and south on US-23.[A]

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

Historical markersEdit

There are seven recognized historical markers in the city:[33]

  • 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




Alpena is home to several radio stations.


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WHAK 960 Talk Rogers City


Call Sign Frequency Format City Broadcast From
WPHN 90.5 Religious Gaylord
WCML 91.7 Public Alpena
WFDX 92.5 Off the Air Atlanta
WKJZ 94.9 Classic Hits Hillman
WRGZ 96.7 Classic Rock Rogers City
WATZ 99.3 Country Alpena
WHAK 99.9 Classic Hits Rogers City
WWTH 100.7 Classic Rock Oscoda
WMJZ 101.5 Classic Hits Gaylord
WKJC 104.7 Country Tawas City
WGFM 105.1/103.7 Rock Cheboygan
WZTK 105.7 Talk/News Alpena
WWMK 106.3/98.1 Classic AC Cheboygan
WHSB 107.7 Top 40 Alpena


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

Television stations located within the Alpena DMA:

Cable only television:

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

Local libraries, museums, planetarium and landmarksEdit

Notable peopleEdit

In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ There is a congregation of stores, including Home Depot, Meijer,[30] MC Sports,[31] and Walmart. Neiman's Family market, Kmart, and Big Lots are south on US-23.[32][citation needed]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". 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. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  7. ^ "Alpena Regional Medical Center - Main". Archived from the original on 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2006-02-16.
  8. ^ Herron, Catherine; Herron, Nelston R. (1990–1991). "A History of the Place Names of Alpena County". Wilderness Chronicle (19–21). Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  9. ^ a b "Michigan government on place names". Archived from the original on July 28, 2009. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  10. ^ "Bibliography on Alpena County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. Retrieved January 18, 2013.
  11. ^ Hanines, D. A.; Sando, R. W. (1969). "Climatic Conditions Preceding Historically Great Fires in the North Central Region" (PDF). United States Forest Service. Research Paper NC-34, Figure 1.
  12. ^ Haltiner, Robert E.; Tabe, Ann (1986). "The Town That Wouldn't Die: Alpena, Michigan". Stories of Alpena Life. Village Press. ISBN 978-0961777906. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
  13. ^ About Alpena argus. (Alpena, Mich.) 1893-1909. Chronicling America. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  14. ^ Viall, John C. (1914). Alpena: Dates of Early Events. Alpena, MI: The News. pp. 8–9. Retrieved June 5, 2016 – via Internet Archive.
  15. ^ a b Jerlecki, Constance M. (2015). Tales of Michigan II. Clinton Township, MI: Inland Expressions. ISBN 1939150108. pp. 52–55.
  16. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places, Registration Form" (PDF). National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior. November 13, 2015. pp. 2–3 (Section 8). Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-01-25. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  18. ^ Team, National Weather Service Corporate Image Web. "National Weather Service Climate". Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  19. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  20. ^ "MI Alpena CO RGNL AP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  21. ^ "WMO Climate Normals for Alpena/Phelps Collins AP, MI 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2020-09-04.
  22. ^ "Station Name: MI ALPENA WWTP". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  23. ^ Detroit and Mackinac Railway pictures and history Archived 2016-01-13 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ The tracks of older railroads have been removed and the roadbeds are now used by snowmobiles. Michigan Railroad history for Alpena. Archived 2013-07-24 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "BAY CITY-ALPENA-CHEBOYGAN-ST. IGNACE" (PDF). Indian Trails. March 19, 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 24, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  26. ^ "Google Groups".
  27. ^ "45th Parallel North America".
  28. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  29. ^ "Alpena Mall". Pure Michigan. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  30. ^ Jordan, Heather (May 3, 2015). "New Meijer store opens in Alpena, brings 270 jobs". Mlive. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  31. ^ "MC Sports". Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  32. ^ "Neiman's Family Market". Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  33. ^ "Michigan Historical Markers". Archived from the original on 2010-03-15. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
  34. ^ The Alpena News
  35. ^ Neighbor Hub. "Home - Besser Museum".
  36. ^ Haltiner & Taber 1986.
  37. ^ "Visiting Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary".
  38. ^ "Museums". Archived from the original on 2016-06-24.
  39. ^ "Ten famous films shot in Michigan". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  40. ^ "Die Hard 2" (PDF). Michigan Business forums. Retrieved January 16, 2019.


  • Haltiner, Robert E.; Taber, Ann (1986). The Town that Wouldn't Die: A Photographic History of Alpena, Michigan from Its Beginnings Through 1940. Alpena, Michigan: Jesse Besser Museum. ISBN 0961777907. ISBN 9780961777906.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External linksEdit