Evidence of human habitation in the Saginaw Valley, home to the city of Saginaw (population 57,523), reaches back 12,000 years. The first permanent settlement dates to 1816, when Joseph Campau set up a trading post. Shortly thereafter the United States established Fort Saginaw. The area continued to grow, and lumber production became the area’s largest industry. By 1855 there were 23 sawmills producing 100 million board feet of lumber a year.

The current city of Saginaw is actually the result of two municipalities, Saginaw and East Saginaw, merging in 1899. Lumber production gave way to automobile manufacturing in the 20th century. During this time Saginaw saw a large swell in population due to immigration, particularly by African Americans from the American south. By the end of the 20th By the end of the 20th century the automobile industry was in decline.

Saginaw is located within the Motor Cities National Heritage Area and participates in regional promotion of itineraries that explore the area’s automotive heritage.

Photo
Typical residential block in the Potter Street neighborhood.

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