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Benton Harbor, Michigan

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Benton Harbor, Michigan

Benton Harbor, Michigan
Main Street in Downtown Benton Harbor
Main Street in Downtown Benton Harbor
Location of Benton Harbor, Michigan
Location of Benton Harbor, Michigan
Country United States
State Michigan
County Berrien
 • Emergency Manager Tony R. Saunders II[1]
 • Mayor James Hightower
 • Total 4.68 sq mi (12.12 km2)
 • Land 4.43 sq mi (11.47 km2)
 • Water 0.25 sq mi (0.65 km2)
Elevation 591 ft (180 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 10,038
 • Estimate (2012[4]) 10,040
 • Density 2,265.9/sq mi (874.9/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 49022-49023
Area code(s) 269
FIPS code 26-07520[5]
GNIS feature ID 0621144[6]

Benton Harbor is a city in Berrien County in the U.S. state of Michigan which is located west of Kalamazoo, and northwest of South Bend, Indiana. In 2010, the population was 10,038 according to the census. It is the smaller, by population, of the two principal cities in the Niles-Benton Harbor Metropolitan Statistical Area, an area with 156,813 people.[7]

Benton Harbor and the City of St. Joseph are separated by the St. Joseph River and are known locally as the "Twin Cities". Fairplain and Benton Heights are unincorporated areas adjacent to Benton Harbor.


Benton Harbor was founded by Henry C. Morton, Sterne Brunson and Charles Hull, who all now have or have had schools named after them.[8] Benton Harbor was mainly swampland bordered by the Paw Paw River, through which a canal was built, hence the "harbor" in the city's name.[9] In 1860, the village was laid out by Brunson, Morton, Hull and others, and given the name of Brunson Harbor.[10]

Brunson, Morton, and Hull also donated land and solicited subscriptions for construction of the canal, which was completed in 1862. It had long been recognized that a canal would be crucial to the town's development, both to drain the marsh and to provide a berthing area for ships. The canal, originally 25 feet wide but expanded to 50 feet wide in 1868, led to the town's becoming a shipping and manufacturing center for the area.[11]

In 1865 the name of the settlement was changed to Benton Harbor in honor of [10]

Two major riots occurred in 1966 and 2003. Several other riots have also occurred in the intervening period.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.68 square miles (12.12 km2), of which 4.43 square miles (11.47 km2) is land and 0.25 square miles (0.65 km2) is water.[2]


Climate data for Benton Harbor, Michigan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 68
Average high °F (°C) 30.2
Average low °F (°C) 17.4
Record low °F (°C) −21
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.32
Snowfall inches (cm) 26.0
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 11.9 9.6 10.3 12.3 10.5 9.8 8.5 9.6 9.7 11.1 11.2 13.0 127.6
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 9.2 6.4 2.9 0.5 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 2.0 7.7 28.8
Source: Midwestern Regional Climate Center (normals 1971−2000)[12]


The demographics of Benton Harbor contrast sharply with those across the river in St. Joseph.

City White Black Median
Benton Harbor 7.0% 89.2% $17,301
St. Joseph 88.1% 5.3% $49,982

2010 census

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 10,038 people, 3,548 households, and 2,335 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,265.9 inhabitants per square mile (874.9/km2). There were 4,329 housing units at an average density of 977.2 per square mile (377.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 7.0% White, 89.2% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.1% Asian, 0.8% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.2% of the population.

There were 3,548 households of which 44.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 17.0% were married couples living together, 43.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 34.2% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.41.

The median age in the city was 28.3 years. 35.1% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.4% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.5% were from 25 to 44; 22.2% were from 45 to 64; and 7.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 46.5% male and 53.5% female.

2000 census

At the 2000 census,[5] there were 11,182 people, 3,767 households and 2,557 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,545.7 per square mile (983.5/km²). There were 4,492 housing units at an average density of 1,022.7 per square mile (395.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.40% African American, 5.48% White, 0.15% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.14% from other races, and 1.65% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.58% of the population.

There were 3,767 households of which 42.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 20.8% were married couples living together, 42.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.1% were non-families. 26.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.91 and the average family size was 3.53.

Age distribution was 39.6% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 25.9% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 8.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 83.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 72.7 males.

The median household income was $17,471, and the median family income was $19,250. Males had a median income of $27,154 versus $20,105 for females. The per capita income for the city was $8,965, the lowest in Michigan. About 39.6% of families and 42.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 52.5% of those under age 18 and 29.7% of those age 65 or over.

Government and politics

The Michigan Treasury Department in 2009 sent a team to look into the city's finances. The team's report was a long list of mismanagement to the point that budgets were "effectively meaningless as a financial management tool." The city was $10 million under- funded in its pension fund and increasing budget deficits. In April 2010, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Joseph Harris as Emergency Financial Manager. City staff has been reduced by 30 to 70.[13]

Benton Harbor City Hall

Harris was given expanded powers under a new law signed in March 2011 by Republican Governor Rick Snyder.[1] Harris was previously the chief financial officer for the city of Detroit.[1] On April 14, 2011, Harris suspended the decision-making powers of Benton Harbor's elected city officials, who can hold meetings but are not allowed to govern.[1] The Michigan AFL-CIO president called the move "sad news for democracy in Michigan", but at least one city official, City Commissioner Bryan Joseph, was in favor of it, saying the city had been mismanaged for decades.[1]

On January 4, 2012, city commissioners Marcus Muhammad and MaryAlice Adams held a press conference, where they stated that if there is still an emergency financial manager administrating the city when Benton Harbor hosts the Senior PGA Championship in May, an "Occupy PGA movement should sit in on the golf greens and driving ranges in protest."[14] Library service for the city is provided by the Benton Harbor Public Library.

On January 11, 2013 the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board (ELB) voted to replace Joseph Harris as the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) for the city of Benton Harbor. On February 1, 2013, the ELB would then appoint Tony R. Saunders II as the youngest Successor-Emergency Financial Manager for the city of Benton Harbor.[15]


The city is served by two institutions, Benton Harbor Area Schools[16] within the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency,[17] and Lake Michigan College, a two–year community college just east of Benton Harbor.


Whirlpool Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of major home appliances, has its corporate headquarters in nearby Benton Charter Township,[18][19] along with a new downtown campus near the St. Joseph River in Benton Harbor, and the Technical Center in St. Joseph.

Community organizations

Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO) is a political and social justice coalition working in Benton Harbor.

Race Relations Council of Southwest Michigan is dedicated to fostering interracial understanding, mutual respect, and cooperative action toward the elimination of barriers to racial equality.


Major highways

  • I‑94 bypasses the city to the east and south, connecting with Kalamazoo and Detroit to the east and with Michigan City, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois to the south and southwest.
  • BL I‑94 travels through the downtowns of both Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. It mostly follows the former route of US 12.
  • I-196 begins nearby in Benton Township and continues northerly toward Holland, ending at Grand Rapids.
  • US 31 is currently a freeway (the St. Joseph Valley Parkway) from the Indiana border north, until merging with a five-lane road (Napier Avenue) to a brief connection with I-94. A freeway connection directly to I-94 is planned.
  • M‑63 serves as a loop route connecting with I-196 at the north and running through downtown St. Joseph. M-63 continues on to I-94 and then to M-139, where it ends. M-63 follows the former route of US 33.
  • M‑139 begins at US 12 near Niles and terminates at BL I-94 on the Benton Harbor–Benton Township border (the northbound direction terminates wholly within Benton Township). M-139 follows a former route of US 31 south of I-94.

Spanning the Paw Paw River and providing an additional connection to St. Joseph, the Charles Freeman Joseph bridge on Whitwam Drive, is named for Benton Harbor's first black mayor, opened in late 2005.[20][21]


The Amtrak station in St Joseph is serviced daily by Amtrak's Pere Marquette passenger train.


Twin Cities Area Transportation Authority (TCATA) provides bus transit throughout Benton Harbor and the surrounding areas. Originally strictly a dial-a-ride service, it has recently expanded to include three fixed routes—Red Route, Green Route and Blue Route. Red Route serves Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, St. Joseph Charter Township, Lincoln Township, and Royalton Township. Blue and Green routes operate throughout Benton Harbor and Benton Township.[22]


Southwest Michigan Regional Airport provides non-commercial air service.


Both Benton Harbor and neighboring St. Joseph are commercial ports that receive bulk goods from lake freighters.


Benton Harbor is served by The Herald-Palladium newspaper, whose offices are in nearby St. Joseph Township, and is part of the . The Benton Spirit Community Newspaper has also been serving the community for the past 10 years. The paper was acknowledged by former Governor Granholm's 2003 Benton Harbor Task Force Report as a key communications stakeholder that 'proactively assist in the total development of Benton Harbor.' Benton Harbor is served by sister radio stations WCXT, WCSY-FM, WIRX, WSJM, WSJM-FM, and WYTZ, as well as WHFB, WHFB-FM, and some in the . Additionally, most of the Chicago market and stations are available from 60 miles (97 km) across the lake.

Points of interest

The Morton House in Benton Harbor

Sites of interest in Benton Harbor are Shiloh House, built in 1910, which served as the administration building and men's dormitory for the House of David colony, a communal religious group; Morton House (on Morton Hill), built in 1849 by Eleazar Morton, which now houses a museum; Jean Klock Park on Lake Michigan; and the Golf Club at Harbor Shores. In neighboring Benton Township is a large fruit market which replaced the prior fruit market located in the "flats" area of Benton Harbor, which was torn down during an urban renewal project in 1967.[23][24]

The main shopping center is The Orchards Mall.


An American Basketball Association team (ABA), the Twin City Ballers, played in Benton Harbor for a few games in November 2006, but left the city due to poor attendance at games. Another ABA team, the Lake Michigan Admirals, began play in 2009. The Admirals switched from the ABA to join the Premiere Basketball League for the 2012 season.

Jack Dempsey defended his heavyweight title September 6, 1920, in Benton Harbor, defeating Billy Miske.

The city hosts the Maytag Ironman 70.3 Steelhead triathlon,[25] which is a qualifying event for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.


Benton Harbor is cohost of the annual Blossomtime Festival with St. Joseph.

Arts District Downtown

Notable people


  1. ^ a b c d e Santiago Esparza (2011-04-16). "Emergency manager cuts roles of Benton Harbor officials". The Detroit News. Archived from the original on 2011-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  4. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  5. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  6. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  7. ^ Population of Michigan Regions and Statistical Areas, 2000 and 2010, at
  8. ^ Ast, William F., III (2011-01-21). "Coming to a Close" (fee required).  
  9. ^ Community Profile, City of Benton Harbor - Berrien County official site
  10. ^ a b Coolidge, Orville W. (1906). A Twentieth Century History of Berrien County, Michigan, pp. 232-35. The Lewis Publishing Company.
  11. ^ Hilton, George W. (2002). Lake Michigan Passenger Steamers, p. 195. Stanford University Press.
  12. ^ "Climate Summaries". Midwestern Regional Climate Center. Retrieved November 26, 2012. 
  13. ^ Carey, Nick (May 11, 2011). "Michigan town's woes a sign of tough choices to come".  
  14. ^ Genellie, Kate (January 5, 2012). "Occupy the PGA?".  
  15. ^ Stanton, Terry (January 11, 2013). "Emergency Loan Board Appoints Tony Saunders II Successor-Emergency Financial Manager in Benton Harbor?".  
  16. ^ "Benton Harbor Area Schools". Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  17. ^ "Berrien Regional Education Service Agency". 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  18. ^ "Contact Us." Whirlpool Corporation. 5 (6/30). Retrieved on April 28, 2010.
  19. ^ "Benton charter township, Michigan." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on April 28, 2010.
  20. ^ Vandeventer, Gene (April 2008). "'"Chief 'Charlie Joe. Citizen Airman 60 (2): 18–19. 
  21. ^ "New bridge links BH, St. Joe" (fee required).  
  22. ^ Go Ride Share: Twin Cities Dial A Ride
  23. ^ Matuszak, John (2010-08-09). "150 and still growing".  
  24. ^ Thomopoulos, Elaine Cotsirilos (2003). Images of America: St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.  
  25. ^ "Maytag Ironman 70.3 Steelhead triathlon". Retrieved 2012-07-08. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Royce, Julie Albrecht (2007). Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast, p. 37. Dog Ear Publishing.

External links

  • Lake Michigan College
  • Benton Harbor Area Schools
  • Benton Harbor Arts District
  • Benton Harbor Public Library
  • City of Benton Harbor official web site
  • History of Benton Harbor and tales of village days (by James Pender. Chicago: The Braun Printing Co., 1915)
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