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The History of Birmingham

The formal settlement of the area now known as Birmingham occurred over 180 years ago. The pioneer story of this small Michigan community began when four enterprising men purchased the first parcels totaling 640 acres of land in 1818. They included Elijah Willits, Benjamin Pierce, John Hamilton and John West Hunter. Hunter was the first permanent resident building his log cabin during the winter of 1819. Unlike other pioneering communities that attracted farmers looking for rich new farmland, Birmingham's founders quickly established a manufacturer based local economy. Foundries, tanneries, blacksmith shops, broom and brick making factories were just some of the businesses that were quickly defining this frontier community. Birmingham's name was chosen by those optimistic about the potential growth of the village, with its manufacturing capabilities after England's biggest industrial center.

Brown Stree (undated)

Most of the manufacturers of the 1830s were gone by the 1860s and so were the visions of Birmingham as a major industrial center. Instead the quiet Village of Birmingham emerged. The Eccentric Newspaper, banks, merchants, shop owners and other professional such as doctors, dentist and lawyer established their business in town. By 1890s long-time residents who had been lobbying for many improvements began to see better roads, the opening of the interurban street car lines, the establishment of paid fire department, clean water supply and for a new public library.

Maple & Old Woodward (1954)

These improvements, along with others made Birmingham a very acquaint but highly desirable place to live. In 1933, the growth in population driven in part by the mobility of the automobiles led to the incorporation of Birmingham as a city. Today, Birmingham's business district and residential areas still enjoy many of the small town charm that characterized days gone by.

Explore more about Birmingham's History at the Birmingham Historical Museum & Park.