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The city of Manistee, Michigan is situated on both sides of the Manistee River, between Lake Michigan to the west and Manistee Lake to the east.

Manistee is the only city in Manistee County, and the county seat. Manistee Township is northeast of the city, although the two are administered separately. Filer Township is south, and Stronach Township is east.

Oak Hill, a census-designated place, abuts a portion of southeast Manistee, while the CDP of Parkdale abuts the northeast corner of the city. The village of Eastlake is just across Manistee Lake from Manistee, although the drive around the northern part of the lake puts it about four miles away. Other nearby communities on Manistee lake include the Filer City CDP and the Stronach CDP. Besides Eastlake, other cities and villages within twenty miles of Manistee include Onekama, Freesoil, Bear Lake, and Fountain.

The chief route through the city is US-31. M-110 (Lakeshore Road) leads north from the city along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Manistee has a historic downtown district with several original buildings from the Victorian era. The entire downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including several locally owned retail stores and other businesses.

A Jesuit mission was established in what is now Manistee in 1751, and Catholic missionaries visited the area throughout the 19th century, and a Jesuit mission house was situated on the northwestern shore of Manistee Lake in 1826.

In 1832, a group of traders from Massachusetts built a log house along the Manistee River, but they were soon driven off by members of the Ottawa nation. In 1830, Manistee was one of about fifteen Ottawa villages along the Lake Michigan shore, and much of the Manistee River Valley, including the area of Manistee, was designated as an Ottawa Reservation from 1836 to 1848.

The first permanent Euro-American settlement of the village was by John, Joseph, and Adam Stronach, who came by schooner along the Manistee River in April of 1841. They arrived with a crew of workers and equipment, establishing the sawmill that served as the basis for the village. In 1846, the settlement was named Manistee and made part of Ottawa County in 1855, which was then a large county that included modern-day Manistee, Missaukee, and Wexford counties. A post office was established on January 31, 1850, with Stephen Batchelder as the first postmaster. The post office was closed on July 23, 1851, but restored on July 24, 1854. Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell, the first lawyer in Manistee, arrived in 1860.

In 1869, Manistee was incorporated as a city. Two years later, on October 8, 1871, the city was nearly destroyed by fire, on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo Fire, and large fires in Port Huron and Holland.

The original economy of Manistee was based on the timber industry, supporting several sawmills and the people who came to work in industries related to its timber resources, such as shingle mills. As the city grew, wealthy lumbermen built large mansions, some of which still stand today. During the lumber boom, Manistee had more millionaires per capita than any other town in the nation. Manistee was the headquarters of the Manistee and North-Eastern Railroad, which operated from 1887 to 1955.

The Great Michigan Fire destroyed the region's value for the timber industry but a local lumberman, Charles Rietz, successfully drilled for salt there in 1880 and 1881, spurring the city's rebuilding after the fire. Morton Salt Company still has an evaporation site in Manistee today.

Manistee's peak population was 14,260 in 1900. Since then, its population has decreased every decade but 1940, when there was a 7.6% increase. Its current population is just over six thousand.

The city is characterized by water. Four main bodies of water are within the city limits. Its western boundary is Lake Michigan, and the city owns and maintains about a mile of beachfront along Lake Michigan for recreational use. Its eastern boundary is Manistee Lake, and the Manistee River Channel divides the city into northern and southern portions, and includes about a mile and a half of riverwalk. Additionally, a 27-acre man-made lake is on the north end of the city, created about fifty years ago by sand-mining operations. This lake warms up faster and cools down later than Lake Michigan, so it is often used for swimming.

The focus of this portion of our guide is on the city of Manistee. Topics related to the municipal government or any industries, businesses, schools, places of worship, organizations, attractions, events, sports programs, and recreational opportunities within the city are appropriate for this category.


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