Alpena, Michigan (population 11,304), seat of Alpena County, was founded in 1856. Located along the shores of Lake Huron's Thunder Bay, the community prospered during the 19th century as a center for fishing and lumbering.
In the early 20th century, the focus of the economy shifted to papermaking and cement manufacturing, and Alpena became the world's largest producer of cement.
Now, in the 21st century, Alpena is working to evolve from an industrial city to a heritage tourism destination, focusing particularly on the community's maritime heritage.
In 2000, the 448-square mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Marine Sanctuary was created. Only the second National Marine Sanctuary to be dedicated to the preservation of cultural resources, it was established to preserve and protect an estimated 200 historically significant shipwrecks off the coast of Alpena.
The sanctuary's shipwrecks will be interpreted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's new Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, which will include live video feeds from selected shipwrecks.
The Heritage Center is a cornerstone of a larger public-private redevelopment of the historic Fletcher Paper Mill Complex, which is being adapted for use as a conference center, paper-making museum, and waterfront condominiums. Across the Thunder Bay River from the paper mill complex is Alpena's historic downtown and many of its historic residences.
The Alpena Downtown Development Authority has established a façade improvement grant program for the downtown, and the city is studying creation of a historic district to further promote preservation of Alpena's historic properties.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2005.