Grand Haven

Grand Haven

Grand Haven, city (1990 pop. 11,951), seat of Ottawa co., SW Mich., at the mouth of the Grand River; inc. 1867. It is a port on Lake Michigan that ships sand and gravel. Grand Haven manufactures fabricated-metal and paper products. The city, with its state park (noted for its "singing sand," which emits a whistling sound when walked on), is also a popular resort.

Grand Haven is a city in the U.S. State of Michigan and is the county seat of Ottawa County. The city is located on Lake Michigan at the mouth of the Grand River, for which it is named. As of the 2000 census, Grand Haven population was 11,168 and is located within the 39th largest media market in the country out of 210. As of the 2006 population estimates, the population was 10,573. The city is home to the Grand Haven Memorial Airpark (3GM) and is located just north of Grand Haven Charter Township.


The city dates its founding to French settlers and a fur-trading outpost called Gabagouache, which was first established by Madeline La Framboise and her husband. The outpost took the name from the Pottawattamie Indians name for the area, Gabagouache. The trading post was later taken over by business tycoon and first millionaire in the United States, John Jacob Astor and the American Fur Company and became a hub of economic activity in the area.

The Pottawattamie and Ottawa Indians lived in the area much earlier as the river was a major Native American trade route into the interior of Michigan. The impact of the Ottawa tribe on the area continues to be seen with the discovery of new artifacts.

The city was first called "Grand Haven" in 1835 and the community was incorporated as a city in 1867. The first permanent resident was a Presbyterian minister named William Ferry, who founded the first area church and neighboring town of Ferrysburg. The second church opened 16 years later in 1850. In 1851, Ferry created the cities first bank in the old Ferry & Son building on Harbor Drive. Ferry also started a school Ferry Elementary which is still operating to this day.

In the mid to late 1800s, Grand Haven developed into a logging, lumber mill and shipping area. During the early 1900s Grand Haven was as a manufacturing hub for the area building everything from automobiles to car parts to furniture to lighting and pianos.

The former Grand Trunk Railway on the waterfront near the river is now a historical museum. The Story and Clark Piano Company built pianos in the city from 1900-1984. The smokestack at the piano factory collapsed during the Southern Great Lakes Derecho of 1998. In August 2006, Eagle-Ottawa Leather Co. which traces its origin back to the Sheldon Tannery founded in 1838, announced it would close all Grand Haven operations in October.

The Grand Haven Lighthouses were first built in 1839 on the south pier marking the channel into the river. The current lighthouses, painted red, were built in 1875 (outer light) and 1905 (inner). They are connected by a lighted catwalk which runs along the pier to the shore.

Business and tourism

Grand Haven is now an active and eclectic resort, boating, fishing and port community, while maintaining its small town feel. The city boasts over 100 miles of bike trails, a state beach, boardwalk, 2 lighthouses, a pier, wharf, large charter fishing fleet and a Great Lakes port, where it imports limestone, slag, cement & coal while exporting sand.

Grand Haven State Park was nationally recognized for having one of the top 5 beaches in the United States, by Good Morning America - Travel Mom. In summer, water temperatures can reach the low 70s (Fahrenheit), bringing tens of thousands of visitors, along with a boon of activity to the local economy.

West Michigan has been called the Midwest Mecca of beach volleyball due to the quality of sands. Grand Haven State Beach is a key destination for volleyball enthusiasts and hosts the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tournament throughout the summer months.

The state park also includes a campground on Lake Michigan, near the pier and lighthouses. In addition, the city features a ski park (Mulligan's Hollow Ski Bowl) and a skate park. The waterfront locations bring tourists from all over the state and region for boating, sailing, jet skiing, and wind surfing.

Grand Haven is also home to one of the country's most beautiful golf courses. The Grand Haven Golf Club was designed in 1965 by the legendary pioneer of Michigan golf, architect Bruce Matthews Sr. It has been featured in Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest magzines and on USA Network's "PGA Tour Sunday." It also gained national attention as home to the LPGA's Shoreline Classic until recently.

Grand Haven is home to the United States Coast Guard's "Group Grand Haven," which coordinates all Lake Michigan Coast Guard activities. The first Coast Guard presence in the city was in 1932. The city hosts the annual Coast Guard Festival, which draws U.S. and Canadian vessels along with parades of bands and other activities. The yearly attendance for this event exceeds 100,000 people over the two-week period of the festival. Grand Haven is also officially designated as "Coast Guard City, USA" by an act of Congress signed by President Bill Clinton. The act was Public Law 105-383 enacted by the United States Congress and signed by the president on November 13, 1998. The Grand Haven Musical Fountain was built on the opposite bank of the Grand River from the city center in 1962. It plays nightly in tourist season. When it was built, it was the world's largest such fountain. It purportedly is still the largest fountain with colored lights although the largest fountain overall is now in Las Vegas.


Grand Haven has been a technology leader in West Michigan and throughout the country having been featured in the national media, including on ABC, in PCWorld, ComputerWorld and Forbes magazine. The city holds the title as first municipality in the country to feature a city-wide wireless internet service. The wireless service is designed to work throughout the city and up to 15 miles offshore for boaters. In 2004, the city started offering wireless internet service every day to residents, businesses and visitors.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.4 square miles (19.2 km²), of which, 5.8 square miles (15.0 km²) of it is land and 1.6 square miles (4.1 km²) of it (21.62%) is water.

Major Highways

  • US-31 runs through the city along a boulevard and utilizes a drawbridge over the Grand River at the northern city limit.
  • M-104 runs easterly from US-31 in Ferrysburg, through Spring Lake and toward I-96.


As of the census of 2000, there were 11,168 people, 4,979 households, and 2,892 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,923.5 per square mile (742.2/km²). There were 5,532 housing units at an average density of 952.8/sq mi (367.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.35% White, 0.45% African American, 0.56% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.40% from other races, and 1.35% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.58% of the population.

There were 4,979 households out of which 23.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.5% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.9% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.81.

In the city the population was spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 23.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 89.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.0 males.


The area is served by the daily newspaper Grand Haven Tribune, which has headquarters located in Grand Haven, Mich. The Grand Haven Tribune circulation reaches 9,497 readers.

Grand Haven has a unique community portal,, which features live weather data, forecasts, a live webcam of Grand Haven State Park and local events.

The city also has its own radio station WGHN 92.1FM/AM1370.

Economic data

The median income for a household in the city was $40,322, and the median income for a family was $50,000. Males had a median income of $34,846 versus $28,472 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,274.

The median home cost in Grand Haven is $180,700. Home appreciation over the last year has been 2.20 percent. Homes directly on Lake Michigan cost considerably more than the median price though.

Grand Haven's cost of living is 6.10% lower than the U.S. average.

71.55% of the residents of Grand Haven are registered Republican, 27.64% Democrats, and the remaining 0.81% are independent.

Grand Haven public schools spend $6,588 per student, while the average school expenditure in the U.S. is $6,058. 19.85 percent of the city's population holds a four year degree, compared with 15.16 percent nationally.

The unemployment rate is 5.40 percent, just above the U.S. average of 4.60%. Recent job growth is positive and jobs have increased by 0.76 percent.

As of 2007, the area's major employers included:

  1. Herman Miller Spring Lake
  2. Shape Corporation
  3. County of Ottawa
  4. Grand Haven Area Public Schools
  5. GHSP
  6. North Ottawa Community Hospital
  7. Meijer, Inc.
  8. Magna-Donnelly
  9. ASIMCO Technologies
  10. Alcoa Automotive Castings
  11. Wal-Mart

The city hosts the county courts for Ottawa County. It manages its own fire and police departments and is the location of the lakeshore's power source, Grand Haven Board of Light and Power.

Notable natives


External links

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