MAF Summer Architecture Road Trip: 
Great Lakes Bay Region (Midland, Bay City, Saginaw)


Are you considering a trip up north this summer, perhaps heading up the I-75 corridor or just looking for a day trip closer to home? This month we have explored some of the unique Michigan architectural buildings and historical areas in the Great Lakes Bay Region that reinforce MAF’s mission of “Advancing awareness of how architecture enriches life.”  If you are planning a trip to or through the communities of Midland, Bay City or Saginaw this summer, please consider some of the following tour options to learn more about Michigan Architecture:


Great Architecture of Michigan Summer Road Trip:

One of our first Road Trips focused on the Michigan buildings featured in the Michigan Architectural Foundation’s book, ‘Great Architecture of Michigan,’ written by John Gallagher with photos by Balthazar Korab. That Road Trip explored the Flint and Great Lakes Bay regions of the state, starting in Flint and traveling north to Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. A link to that original Road Trip can be found here:

Michigan Architecture Road Trip #3: Flint and the Great Lakes Bay Region : Michigan Architectural Foundation


Alden B. Dow Home and Studio:

No trip to Midland would be complete without a tour of this masterpiece.  Dow, an heir to the chemical fortune, was in his late 20’s when he apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1933, and soon afterward he built his studio in his hometown and went on to add his residence.  Many see Wright’s influences in the horizontal lines and overhanging eaves, but the home and studio really belong to Dow’s own genius.  Beautifully maintained as a museum, it ranks among Michigan’s very best of the best.

National Historic Landmark Tours (

Home & Studio Midland Michigan – Alden B. Dow (


Herbert and Grace Dow House:

It is easy to see where the great architect Alden B. Dow got his genes.  His father, the founder of the Dow Chemical Co., and mother built this rambling house in 1899 and upgraded over the years in a way that made a deep impression on their son.  The overall style married the Shingle with the newly popular Arts & Crafts movement.  The entry foyer is exceptional for its woodwork.  Today the house is open for tours by appointment and is part of the extensive Dow Gardens in Midland.

The Pines of Dow Gardens – A National Historic Landmark


Mid-Century Modern Midland:

Not a tour per se, but a marvelous collection and documentation of Mid-Century Modern architecture.  The Mission of MCMM is to document, preserve, celebrate, share and perpetuate the Mid-Century Modern architectural heritage of Midland, Michigan. In the early 1930s, Alden B. Dow introduced modern design to Midland, Michigan, and created over 130 structures during his career. His innovative and dynamic structures initiated an architectural heritage that is unprecedented in the United States.  Dow’s creative concepts inspired dozens of other architects in the surrounding communities.  These gifted architects created beautifully crafted Mid-Century Modern structures that are an integral part of the over 400 buildings that dominate Midland.  You may want to download the app for instant access to the complete collection of building information while you are exploring Midland.

Mid-Century Modern Midland – The Mid-Century Modern Architectural Heritage of Midland, Michigan (


Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest Canopy Walk:

Although this is not a traditional building, the Dow Gardens and Whiting Forest are a “must-see” if you are visiting Midland.  At Dow Gardens you will experience a dazzling 110-acre display of annuals and perennials punctuated by distinctive bridges, towering pines, and delightful water features.  Many of the bridges and site structures were designed by Alden B. Dow.  While you are there, do not miss the adjacent Whiting Forest featuring 54 acres of woodlands, ponds, apple orchard, meadows, stream, and the newly added (and the nation’s longest) Canopy Walk.  The Canopy Walk is accessible to all visitors, is 1,400 feet long, and soars up to 40 feet above the ground.

Dow Gardens – A Legacy of Beauty

Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens


Bay City Historic Architecture Walking Tours:

If you are interested in looking at a complete collection of historic homes, you will want to check out these tours of Bay City’s nationally registered, Center Avenue Historic District.  Most of these mansions were built in the late 1800s for a growing community of lumber barons and shipping industrialists.  The district is home to a wide variety of home periods and styles.  If you are exploring the area on your own, the final link will connect you to an interactive website that provides historical information regarding many of the historic structures.

Take a self-guided, sidewalk tour of five historic homes in Bay City (

Walking through Bay City’s Center Avenue district takes you back in time (

Take a Virtual Tour (


Bay City Historical Museum Tours:

The Bay City Historical Museum also offers a variety of guided tours from May until October that highlight Bay County’s history and community.  All tours leave from the Museum lobby.  If you are looking for something other than the usual and predictable historical tour, you may want to consider the “Hell’s Half Mile Walking Tour”.  Here you will learn about the life of the lumberjacks (“shanty boys”) as they collected their weekly pay and headed for the strip along the waterfront called “Hell’s Half Mile.

BCHS Tours (


Historic Buildings of Saginaw:

Here is a quick look at some of the most historically significant buildings in Saginaw that still remain today.  The Saginaw Waterworks, the Castle Museum, and the Hoyt Library are all featured in the MAF book “Great Architecture of Michigan, mentioned in the second paragraph of this article.

Top 9 Historic Buildings in The City of Saginaw – Pure Saginaw


Saginaw Museums:

The City of Saginaw is home to a wonderful collection of museums that will appeal to almost everyone who visits.

  • The Castle Museum is a delightful building and is now home to the Saginaw County Historical Society.  You will want to visit this museum to explore the building as well as the historical exhibits that tell the story of Saginaw County.
  • The Saginaw Art Museum is a remarkable building that features a 1903 Italian villa in the Georgian Revival style complimented with a 21st-century, state-of-the-art contemporary addition that displays the perfect way to add onto a period home.
  • If you are entertaining children on your trip, do not miss the Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum.  The mission of this museum is to provide a hands-on “Play and Learn” environment that engages and motivates children to use their curiosity and creativity to learn about the wonders of our world.
  • Lastly, if you have time, you may want to consider visiting the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, located on the campus of Saginaw Valley State University.  The museum focuses on the life and works of sculptor Marshall Fredericks.

The Castle Museum of Saginaw County History

Home – Saginaw Art Museum

Our Museum | Mid-Michigan Children’s Museum (

Marshall M. Fredericks – Sculpture Museum (