History of CANA

The Center Avenue Neighborhood Association (CANA) was born from a need to preserve the legacy of historic architecture left to Bay City by the lumbermen and ship builders who made their fortunes here. The Center Avenue Historic District is a National Register listed resource of 948 properties, including 882 contributing buildings and sites dating from 1870 – 1960. It boasts an impressive collection of Gothic Revival, Second Empire, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Richardson Romanesque, Tudor Revival, Georgian Revival, Arts & Crafts and Stick styles. Of particular note is the presence of many “Kit homes” designed, built and displayed here by the Aladdin and Lewis & Liberty companies which pioneered the manufacture of kit homes from their base of operations in Bay City.

The Center Avenue Historic District is the gateway to Bay City for those traveling east and west on M-25. It is a source of community pride and one of the community’s most sought after tourist attractions. The Center Avenue Neighborhood Association intends to protect and preserve the historic character of the Center Avenue Historic District by providing education and information to property owners, by encouraging the creation of incentives and safeguards to protect individual structures and the neighborhood, and by providing opportunities to the general public to experience the interiors of some of the District’s most impressive private homes in order to instill a greater appreciation of the importance of historic preservation to the community at large.

The existing Center Avenue Neighborhood Association is the formal iteration of an informal gathering of property owners who have met casually since approximately 2005 with the common interest of preserving and protecting the integrity of the Center Avenue Historic District. Since that time, members have worked with officials from the Bay City Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Bay City, Bay County, Michigan and Wenona Questers, and the Michigan Department of Transportation to accomplish a number of activities including securing a National Scenic Byways grant (a 2-mile portion of M-25/Center Avenue was designated a Historic Heritage Route under the National Scenic Byways program in 1997).

Much of CANA’s recent efforts have been in support of the City of Bay City which administered the grant on behalf of the neighborhood association. Matching funds (and/or donated services) were provided by CANA for various grant-funded projects, as well as for various projects continued or started after the grant ended, including the following:

Logo development


Website development

Design completed; site populated and launched in Fall 2011 (and is still being improved). The website is used as a community resource as well, listing various neighborhood events.

Holiday Parlour Tour program

Offered in 2007, 2008 (468 people), 2009 (495 people), 2012 (485 people), and 2015 (586 people); planned again for 2017. To read a letter sent to us by a past participant, please click here.

Interpretive Signage Program

Twenty-one bronze interpretive signs have been placed along the Center Avenue corridor. The historic signs are significant to the community and help to encourage visitors to stop and learn more about the structures. CANA is accepting applications for more signs; for details, please see this link.

National Historic District Survey

Comprehensive survey of Historic District properties was begun in 2009 and completed in 2011. Process resulted in the establishment of a PA 169 Local Historic District ordinance providing legal protection for structures and eligibility of tax credits for some property owners; the work also contributed to the expansion of the Center Avenue Neighborhood Historic District on the National Register.

Wayfinding Signage Program

The National Scenic Byways grant provided some funding to include Center Avenue Historic District signs in a community-wide Wayfinding Signage program (installation completed in 2011/2012).

Walking Tour Brochure

Information from the Historic District Survey and properties participating in the Interpretive Signage Program was the basis for a Walking Tour Brochure available in a pdf file from this website (see link in the upper-left column of this page).

Historic Preservation Grants

In 2015, CANA developed historic preservation grants to celebrate the preservation efforts of our neighbors through financial assistance. Grants are awarded to homeowners within the Center Avenue Historic District in the form of material cost reimbursement for qualifying exterior restoration and preservation projects. To see past grant recipient projects, click on the examples: Example 1,
Example 2.

Historic Preservation

In 2016, CANA developed The CANA Historic Preservation Awards to honor homeowners, individuals, and organizations whose efforts in restoration and conservation have led to the preservation of a structure in the City of Bay City.

Trades Scholarships

In 2016, CANA began to offer sponsorship opportunities for skilled trades and artisan personnel for educational programs specific to the restoration and preservation of historic structures to help ensure qualified specialty contractors are available to homeowners.

In 2009, CANA volunteers were members of a local team which facilitated a total reconstruction of a portion of M-25/Center Avenue along with the acquisition and replacement of street lights to resemble those typically in use during the mid 1800s, the burying of utilities and other activities related to the reconstruction project.

The Center Avenue Neighborhood Association was granted 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS.  It supports property owners through education and advocacy and uses programs and information as tools to educate the community and its visitors about the importance of preserving and protecting historic resources.  It also helps the Historic District Commission to fulfill its mission to stabilize and improve property values, foster civic beauty, strengthen the local economy, and promote the use of historic districts.

The Bay County Historical Society has a virtual tour of 51 properties within the district, using Google earth as the interactive “map” (you will need to download Google earth if you do not have it already). Using the “street view” option (person icon at right), you can travel down Center Avenue as if you were actually at street level and you have 360-degree control:  www.bchsmuseum.org/id47.html.