Midland, Michigan: Home of Dow Chemical

Midland is located in central Michigan, near the crook of the thumb on the “Michigan mitt.”  The city is best known as the home of Dow Chemical, which was founded near the end of the 19th century. However, the area which is now Midland has been occupied by native people for thousands of years.

In the mid-19th century, Midland was a Chippewa village. Dwellings made of bent branches and hides called Wickiups lined the waterfront.  Chippewa tended vast fields of pumpkins, corn, and squash. The Chippewa Nature Center currently resides on 1,000 acres that were once granted to the Chippewa Tribe under the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. In addition to the more natural areas of the park, The Chippewa Nature Center is home to several authentic 19th century buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse, a farm, and a ‘sugarhouse,’ where sap from the nearby sugar maple trees is boiled into syrup.

Herbert Dow established Dow Chemical in 1890 after pioneering a process which extracted bromide – a chemical used in medicines and photography at that time – from brine. Midland sat atop a vast reservoir of brine and Dow planned to use electrolysis to separate bromide from brine.  With the help of a few wealthy investors, Dow started Dow Chemical and began doing just that.  At the time, electricity was viewed with suspicion by the general populace, so Dow’s use of electricity in the bromide separation process was especially innovative. Dow Chemical grew from humble beginnings to a company with sales in excess of $50 billion each year, with a presence in over 150 cities and which employs over 50,000 people. Dow Chemical’s headquarters are still located in Midland.

The Tridge (short for ‘triple bridge’) is a three-way footbridge which spans the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers. Though the bridge is primarily for foot traffic, rollerblades and skateboards are also allowed. The Tridge is a popular hangout for local teenagers, due to its location near downtown and adjacent to a skate park.  It is also located near the Midland farmers market and is a focal point of Midland’s summer concert series. The Tridge is a popular tourist attraction in the area.

The Dow name is not only known locally for Dow Chemical.  Alden Dow, son of Herbert Dow and student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is also famous locally for his whimsical, angular, mid-century modern homes and businesses.  A national historical landmark, his home, and the architectural studio are available for touring.  In addition, several local landmarks were also designed by Dow and display his signature style.  Among them is the Midland Center for the Arts and the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library, named in honor of Alden Dow’s mother.

Midland is a famously safe city.  It was voted 61st safest city in America, the only Michigan city to land in the top 100.  The population is slightly above 40,000 residents.  Forbes Magazine named Midland in the top 5 best American cities in which to raise children.


“Tridge-Midland-MI” by Jake Novak – Jake Novak. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tridge-Midland-MI.jpg#/media/File:Tridge-Midland-MI.jpg

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