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Situated in southeast Ionia County, the City of Portland, Michigan is known as the City of Two Rivers, as the confluence of the Looking Glass River and the Grand River is near the center of town.

The chief route to and from the city is I-96, which roughly corresponds to Portland's southern border, except for a small portion that reaches south along Charlotte Highway and East Grand River Avenue. The Divine Highway runs north from the northeastern section of the city.

Cities and villages within twenty-five miles of Portland include Eagle, Mulliken, Westphalia, Lyons, Pewamo, Sunfield, Muir, Grand Ledge, Fowler, Ionia, Hubbardston, Lake Odessa, Saranac, Clarksville, Woodland, DeWitt, Lansing, Vermontville, Dimondale, and Potterville.

With a population under four thousand, about two-thirds of the city's housing stock is owner-occupied, but about thirty-five percent of homes in the city are rental homes, which is higher than the state and county. More than half of the homes in Portland were built before 1960, and about thirty percent were built before 1939, although some of these are historic and well-maintained.

Many Portland residents commute, traveling to Lansing or Grand Rapids for work, while those who work within the city have short commutes, and many of them walk. Nevertheless, about forty percent of residents have a commute that is thirty minutes or longer, although telecommuting is becoming more popular.

Traditional neighborhoods in Portland include the historical neighborhood, which is bounded by James Street, East Avenue, Kent Street, and I-96, as well as the near northside neighborhood, bounded by West Grand River, Ionia Road, Lyons Road, and the western boundaries of the city.

Portland is an urban center among several rural townships, so its commercial districts are utilized by people living in the surrounding region.

Parallel to the Grand River and perpendicular to East Grand River Avenue, Portland's central business district has maintained its traditional pattern, although strip malls dominate commercial development along the East Grand River entryway into the city from I-96. The least developed part of the city is in the northeast, where several tracts north of the Looking Glass River and east of the Grand River are undeveloped.

Portland has three industrial areas. One is in the northwestern portion of the city, along the Grand River and the River Trail, with access to Lyons Road. Another is on both sides of Divine Highway, at the intersection with East Grand River Avenue, and a third is along Lyons Road, in the area of Morse Drive and Bud Plant Drive.

Significant to the early development of the city, and for its recreational value today, are the Grand River and the Looking Glass River, which meet near the center of town. The Grand River is the longest river in Michigan, beginning near the southern border of the state, in Hillsdale County, and flowing north to Lansing, and west to Lake Michigan in Grand Haven, passing through several cities and villages along the way. The Looking Glass River is just over seventy miles in length, rising in Conway Township in northeast Livingston County, flowing north into Shiawassee County, passing through Morrice and Bancroft, then turning westward just south of Laingsburg, flowing through the southern part of Clinton County, including DeWitt, before joining the Grand River in Portland.

As the rivers flow through Portland, the wetlands and wooded areas along the course of the rivers provide wildlife habitat, as well as serving as a recreational resource. The River Trail, Community Lake Park, Thompson Fields, Scout Park, William Toan Park, and the Bogue Flats Recreation Area make use of the rivers.

The Portland Police Department, the Portland Fire Department, and Portland Area Ambulance each operate out of the Emergency Services Building, and are municipally operated services.

The Portland Public School District operates four campuses, all of which are within the city limits. These are Oakland Elementary School, Westwood Elementary School, Portland Middle School, and Portland High School. Additionally, the St. Patrick School enrolls students in PK-12th-grade.

The first European-American land purchase in the area that was to become Portland was by Elisha Newman in the summer of 1833, but he didn't move onto his land until 1836, after others had come. Early settlers included Joseph Wood, Philo Bogue, John Milne, Thomas Shepherd, Ezra I. Perrin, John Friend, and John Knox.

When Elisha Newman came, he was accompanied by Samuel B. Smith, Lyman Bennett, and Almeron and James Newman, most of whom came with their families.

A post office was opened on March 11, 1837, with Joshua Boyer as postmaster. A townsite was platted by A.S. Wadsworth in 1838, Portland was incorporated as a village in 1869, and became a city in 1969.


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