South Haven, Michigan

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South Haven is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. Most of the city is in Van Buren County, although a small portion extends into Allegan County. The population was 5,021 at the 2000 census.

Because of its position on Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the Black River, South Haven has always been a port city. During settlement, major ship lines stopped there, both passenger and freight. In the early 1900s South Haven became a resort town, sometimes referred to as "The Catskills of the Midwest." South Haven is a major regional tourist draw because of its recreational harbor and beaches. It is the western terminus of the Kal-Haven Trail, popular with bicyclists and snowmobilers. Nearby are Van Buren State Park and the Van Buren Trail State Park.

Noted botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey was born in South Haven. His childhood home was presented to the city in the 1930s, and is now a museum.[1]



In 1833, the U.S. government granted J.R. Monroe a land patent for 65 acres of land along the shore of Lake Michigan. In the 1850s the first permanent settlers arrived, and in 1869, the City of South Haven was founded. It was around this time that a sawmill was built, and its arrival brought with it the construction of a hotel (The Forest House, at the corner of Phoenix and Center Streets, no longer a hotel, building subsequently moved a few doors south, still standing, greatly modified) a school, homes, and stores.[2]

The timber harvested in South Haven was shipped to Chicago and Milwaukee via steamboats and schooners, and the cleared forests were then used by fruit farmers, who primarily grew peaches, blueberries and apples. The farming industry created many jobs in the area, and the city began to boom. Around the early 1900s, theaters, a casino, an opera house, an amusement park, and many resorts contributed to a rise in popularity of the city. Being a resort city resulted in a seasonal economy however, and in an effort to stabilize the economy, the city's board of trade successfully recruited several different industries to the area.[3]

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