History



Long before the earliest settlers arrived in the early 1800s, Potowatami Indians inhabited the area. The Indians hunted, fished, grew corn, dwelt in conical shaped wigwams, and greeted the early settlers in peace. A more ancient race dwelt in the area before them, although there is little remaining physical evidence save mysterious mounds and earthworks resembling symmetrical garden beds. 

The lush land of Portage had been largely ignored by the early westerly migration of settlers due to the mistaken belief that it was an uninhabitable swamp, unfit for cultivation. Surprisingly, later settlers discovered the rich soil made a perfect growing environment for celery. By the 1880s, Portage had earned the distinction of "Celery City" of the nation. The area remained prolific in celery production until the middle of the twentieth century.

The City of Portage began its rapid transformation to its modern form during the post World War II era. But this modern city has a past, preserved in architecture at Bicentennial Park and celebrated in history at Celery Flats Interpretive Center.

The City of Portage also has a Historic District Commission (HDC) to recognize and help preserve some of the older architectural beauty and diversity in the city. There are currently 31 registered historic properties in Portage. Anyone interested is welcome to join HDC meetings that take place during the first Wednesday of each month in City Hall. 

Publications

  • "Where the Trails Crossed," a 67-page book describing 42 of the oldest properties in the City of Portage that is available at Portage City Hall and local bookstores. Proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the Historic District Commission.
     
  • "This Place Called Portage," produced by Michigan historians Larry and Priscilla Massie - also available at City Hall and local bookstores, includes more than 200 historically significant illustrations in color and black and white.