Bay City is a city in Bay County, Michigan, located near the base of the Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 34,932, and is the principal city of the Bay City Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Saginaw-Bay City-Saginaw Township North Combined Statistical Area. The city, along with nearby Midland and Saginaw, form the "Tri-Cities" region, 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 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.
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 until Bay County was organized in 1857. It was at this time that the name was changed to Bay City. 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 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. Previous to that date, the city occupying the west bank of the Saginaw River was a separate city known as West Bay City. The unified Bay City celebrated its centennial in 2005.
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. 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 7 August 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 city history
In September 1990, The tankship MV Jupiter was unloading gasoline at the Total Petroleum Terminal. A passing cargo ship, the Buffalo, moving at excessive speed, created a wake that caused the 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 the Buffalo. The findings of the Court of Appeals upheld the original decision, which assigned 50% of the responsibility to the Buffalo (for her excessive speed), 25% to the dock operator (for rotten wood pilings) and 25% to the 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.