City of Saginaw, Michigan



Old Saginaw City, one of the oldest commercial areas in the Saginaw Valley, was the first settled by the military. Fort Saginaw was erected upon the west banks of the Saginaw River in 1822, at the present location of the intersection of Court and Hamilton Streets. Mosquitos and fevers proved too much for the soldiers who abandoned the Fort by 1823. Local fur traders and farmers, of hardier stock, took over the empty buildings and soon a small settlement was started. The years 1830-1850 saw the development of a commercial area dependant upon traffic from the Saginaw River and the periodic visits of lumbermaen in town for a spree.

As the lumber boom developed in the 1860's, money flowed into the area, and most of the existing multi-stores, brick, Italianate structures were erected. The lumber eventually disappeared, but the commercial district of Old Saginaw City survived, mainly because it was oriented to supplying community needs, rather than the demands of any particular special interest. Today Old Saginaw City remains a visible commercial center, changing to meet the needs of new generations on the west side.

The earliest buildings in Old Saginaw City, constructed from 1850-1860 were wooden, plain or Greek Revival structures. Most of these were destroyed in the fires which typically raged through lumber towns. The 1860's-1890's saw the lumber era develop, resulting in a construction boom in Old Saginaw City. Italianate brick structures, several stories tall, still dominate Court and S. Hamilton Streets, giving the district a harmonious overall appearance. Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, and Chicago School styles are sprinkled throughout the district and lend variety and contrast to the dignified Italianate buildings.

The structures of Old Saginaw City are associated with many of the historically important figures of the west side. The Fordney Hotel, the Schuch Hotel, the Merrill Building, and the Benjamin Stable still bear the names of the prominant men who developed the city. The legacy they created has endured.

Recently, steps have been taken to preserve the unique heritage of Old Saginaw City. The area was made a local historic distric in April of 1981, under Saginaw County Ordinance 102. Plans are also underway to have the district certified for purposes of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, which qualifies owners of depreciable properties of federal tax breaks on restorations. Old Saginaw City os a part of Saginaw's Multiple Resource Nomination to the National Register.


Area 33.8 Acres Construction Dates in Percentage of Structures:
Number of Structures 86 Date  
Predominant Use of First Floor Structures:   1850-1869 17%
Commercial, Retail 40% 1870-1889 37%
Service 36% 1890-1909 13%
Public 4% 1910-1929 15%
Industrial Warehouse 21% 1930 + 17%

Architectural Styles: Italianate, Georgian Revival, Queen Anne, Chicago School.

Notable Names Associated with District: Benjamin Cushway (early settler), Joseph W. Fordney (Congressman and businessman), Schuch Family (founders of the Brockway House, later the Schuch Hotel), Charles Benjamin (an ex-mayor of Saginaw), the Ippel Family (retailer), the Merrill Family, The Andre Family (developed north side Court Street).

Historic Designations: Local Historic District 1981, District nominated for purposes of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, District nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.