Benton Harbor, Michigan

Benton Harbor, Michigan
Benton Harbor, Michigan
—  City  —
Location of Benton Harbor, Michigan
Coordinates: 42°6′40″N 86°26′54″W / 42.11111°N 86.44833°W / 42.11111; -86.44833
Country United States
State Michigan
County Berrien
 – Emergency Manager Joseph Harris[1]
 – Total 4.5 sq mi (11.6 km2)
 – Land 4.4 sq mi (11.4 km2)
 – Water 0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)
Elevation 591 ft (180 m)
Population (2010)
 – Total 10,038
 – Density 2,281.4/sq mi (880.5/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 – Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 49022-49023
Area code(s) 269
FIPS code 26-07520[2]
GNIS feature ID 0621144[3]

Benton Harbor is a city in Berrien County in the U.S. state of Michigan which is located west of Kalamazoo. The population was 10,038 at the 2010 census. It is the lesser populated of the two principal cities included in the Niles-Benton Harbor, Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a total population of 156,813.[4]

Benton Harbor and the City of St. Joseph (which is located across the St. Joseph River) are known locally as the "Twin Cities". Fair Plain 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.[5] 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.[6] In 1860, the village was laid out by Brunson, Morton, Hull and others, and given the name of Brunson Harbor.[7] In 1865 the name of the settlement was changed to Benton Harbor in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a Missouri Senator who helped Michigan achieve statehood. In 1869, Benton Harbor was organized as a village and in 1891 was incorporated as a city.[7]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.5 square miles (12 km2), of which 4.4 square miles (11 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (1.79%) is water.


At the 2000 census[2], 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.

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

White Black Household Income
Benton Harbor 5.49% 92.40% $17,471
St. Joseph 90.31% 5.11% $37,032

Government and politics

The Michigan Treasury Department in 2009 sent a team to look into the city's finance. 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.[8]

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]


Whirlpool Corporation has its corporate headquarters in nearby Benton Charter Township.[9][10]

Community Organizations

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

Lighthouse of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph

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


Major highways

  • I-94.svg 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.
  • Business Loop 94.svg I-94 Business Loop travels through the downtowns of both Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. It follows the former route of US 12.
  • I-196.svg I-196 begins nearby in Benton Township and continues northerly toward Holland, ending at Grand Rapids.
  • US 31.svg US 31 is currently a freeway (the St. Joseph Valley Parkway) from the Indiana border north, until merging with a two-lane road to a brief connection with I-94. A freeway connection directly to I-94 is planned.
  • M-63.svg 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.svg M-139 begins at US 31 in Berrien Springs and terminates at BL 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, named for Benton Harbor's first black mayor, opened in late 2005.[11][12]



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.[13]


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


The city is served by the Benton Harbor Area Schools[14] within the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency.[15]

The public school district serves the city of Benton Harbor and surrounding areas. For years a popular student gathering place was the Tiger Den restaurant across the street from the high school, before it closed. The school district has one high school, seven elementary schools, and two middle schools. In 2007, the district hired a new superintendent. Carole Schmidt replaced Dr. Paula Dawning. The hiring of Schmidt was notable because she left her job as superintendent of the St. Joseph Public School District. Schmidt is the first white superintendent of the Benton Harbor School District in decades.

The school board governs the school district. The current president is Dan McGinnis. There are three charter schools in the city of Benton Harbor: Benton Harbor Charter School,[16] Countryside Academy,[17] and Mildred C. Wells Academy.[18]

Until the consolidation done in the mid-1960s certain out-lying areas, such as Fairplain, had their own independent school districts.

Library service for the City of Benton Harbor is provided by the Benton Harbor Public Library.


Benton Harbor is served by The Herald-Palladium newspaper, whose offices are in nearby St. Joseph Township, and is part of the South Bend/Elkhart television market. It is served by sister radio stations WCXT, WCSY, WCSY-FM, WIRX, WSJM, WSJM-FM, and WYTZ, as well as WHFB, WHFB-FM, and some in the South Bend market. Additionally, most of the Chicago market TV and radio stations are available from 60 miles (97 km) across the lake.

Points of interest

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.[19][20]


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.

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

The city hosts the Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon,[21] which is a qualifying event for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Some Ironman 70.3 races also qualify for the Ironman World Championships, but the Benton Harbor race is not one of them.


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

Notable residents or former residents

Notable companies


  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 "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ Population of Michigan Regions and Statistical Areas, 2000 and 2010, at
  5. ^ Ast, William F., III (2011-01-21). "Coming to a Close" (fee required). The Herald-Palladium. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ Community Profile, City of Benton Harbor - Berrien County official site
  7. ^ a b Coolidge, Orville W. (1906). A Twentieth Century History of Berrien County, Michigan, pp. 232-35. The Lewis Publishing Company.
  8. ^ Carey, Nick (May 11, 2011). "Michigan town's woes a sign of tough choices to come". Yahoo! News. Reuters. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "Contact Us." Whirlpool Corporation. 5 (6/30). Retrieved on April 28, 2010.
  10. ^ "Benton charter township, Michigan." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on April 28, 2010.
  11. ^ Vandeventer, Gene (April 2008). "Chief 'Charlie Joe'". Citizen Airman 60 (2): 18–19. 
  12. ^ "New bridge links BH, St. Joe" (fee required). The Herald-Palladium. 2005-12-03. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "Benton Harbor Area Schools". Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  15. ^ "Berrien Regional Education Service Agency". 2011-04-05. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  16. ^ The Web Harbor. "Benton Harbor Charter School". Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  17. ^ "Countryside Academy". 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  18. ^ "Mildred C. Wells Academy". Retrieved 2011-04-17. 
  19. ^ Matuszak, John (2010-08-09). "150 and still growing". The Herald-Palladium. Retrieved 2010-08-20. 
  20. ^ Thomopoulos, Elaine Cotsirilos (2003). Images of America: St. Joseph and Benton Harbor. Arcadia Publishing. p. 50. ISBN 0738531901. 
  21. ^ "Whirlpool Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Triathlon". Retrieved 2011-04-17. 

External links

Coordinates: 42°07′00″N 86°27′15″W / 42.1166667°N 86.45417°W / 42.1166667; -86.45417

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