From the start, the Midland Street Commercial District, on the west side of the Saginaw River, was in competition with Bay City's central business district on the east bank. The original settlement here, begun in the 1860s and known first as Wenona and later as West Bay City, boasted such prominent citizens as Henry W. Sage and John McGraw, whose west-side lumber mill became one of the world's largest by the end of the nineteenth century. For a while its population growth kept pace with Bay City's. Its street system, many of its shops and homes, and its schools, churches, and civic amenities compared favorably with those across the river. But in spite of healthy growth, West Bay City was outstripped in the 1880s and 1890s, and in 1903 was consolidated with its rival across the Saginaw River into one municipal unit. A compact, four-block-long stretch of Midland Street was West Bay City's commercial showpiece. Its small two- and three-story commercial blocks, capped with heavy cornices and frequently embellished with awnings and flags, displayed good though basic examples of Queen Anne, Italianate, Romanesque, and later, Georgian Revival, Chicago School, and Art Deco styling. Today, private and public investments along Midland Street represent a preservation success story; while the district's individual buildings are modest, this revitalized reflection of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century commercial life is worth seeing.
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Midland Street Commercial District
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