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History of Riverview

History of Riverview

To those who think a city only 63 years old can't have an interesting history...think again.  After all, any city that came within an hour of being annexed by another town and that contained active missile silos during the 1950s, would certainly seem interesting to most people. In fact, the history of Riverview contains much more and goes back much further in time. It also reaches into the history of its neighbor to the south, the Village of Trenton and Monguagon Township. One of the key reasons Trenton was settled in the first place was because it was the highest ground between the Downriver area and Toledo. In a region comprised largely of swamps, high ground was valuable ground. As Trenton became more and more settled, the lumber in what was known as the "river view" section of Monguagon Township became an important resource. An even bigger resource was discovered later in the form of limestone, which was mined from a quarry that still operates near Sibley and Fort Street. Originally owned by F.B. Sibley, the limestone quarry directly led to jobs and other industries; such as Quarry Lumber and a quarry store. By the 1920s, Riverview extended only from what is now West Jefferson to the west of the railroad tracks. The section from the tracks to what would become Fort Street was known as "Wyandotte Heights."  While the area had a quarry, it lacked city water...which played an obvious limiting factor in the growth of the region. As a result, to reach a critical mass necessary to bring water to the area, the areas merged...and in 1923, the Village of Riverview was incorporated.  Sam Vreeland was elected first village president with a population of 704 and an annual budget of $20,000.  "One of the first things they did after incorporating was vote to bring water to the area," said Gerald Perry, a retired Department of Public Works director and the unofficial historian of the city.

The Village of Riverview remained intact until the late 1950s, when a resident drew up petitions to become a city. As the move would have left only a small section of Monguagon Township unincorporated, residents living there also opted to become part of Riverview. But, the change was not without conflict. At the same time, Trenton officials were trying to annex Riverview to become part of their own city.  When the two community groups bearing petitions left for Lansing in 1958, they arrived only an hour apart.  Riverview's documents were submitted first. "If we had lost that (race)," Perry said, "Trenton would have followed up and we would now be part of Trenton."  That same year, a change was also made to the volunteer Fire Department. For the first time, one man, on a rotating basis, was on duty at all times. Over time, the number of people on duty gradually increased, but that change created the permanent part-time department, which still exists today.

Riverview officially became the City of Riverview on March 24, 1959.  Its population grew to 6,700 and the annual budget increased to $455,711. The 1959 issue of THE RIVERVIEW REVIEW newspaper Village+Township=City commemorating Riverview becoming a city was donated to the city by longtime residents Sophia Daigle and Chris Ford.

The 1950s were also a time when Riverview was home to active Nike Ajax missile silos, located behind what is now City Hall. The missiles were part of a national nuclear response system. The Nike Missile site ( site D-54 ) was here to protect the Metro Detroit Area, specifically the automobile and steel industries. The Nike missile systems were set up in a "ring" around the area that they were to protect. The lower part of the Detroit ring was made up of sites D-51 on Grosse Ile, D-54 in Riverview, D57/58 in Newport/Carleton, and D-61 at Metro Airport. Cleveland had it's own "ring". D-54 (along with D-51) was deactivated in February of 1963, due to the advent of a newer version of the Nike missile called the Hercules, which had a longer range. This longer range allowed for fewer missile sites to protect the same area so Riverview was one of the sites that was not upgraded to Hercules and was shut down. D-58 and D-61 were upgraded to Hercules and covered the area that D-51 and D-54 were set up for. The radar station operating the silos was located on Pennsylvania Road.  The Riverview Community Center was once a barracks.

missile plaque1

The Plaque reads: This was once the site of an Army Anti-Aircraft Missile Base, Battery C, 85th AA Guided Missile Battalion which provided air defense to our community from 1956 to 1962.

This Nike Missile Dedicated July 4, 1980 City of Riverview, Mayor: Peter Rotteveel. Council: Jay C. Brown, Donald R. Capezza, Thomas Iverson, Jack Kesterson, Honor Shoemaker, Jill Zick.

Main Roads

  • Pennsylvania Road - an important east-west road on the north side of the city that also forms the boundary between Riverview and Southgate, as well as Wyandotte. It is two lanes east of Fort Street and five lanes west of Fort Street.
  • Sibley Road - an important east-west road in the city that many municipal buildings and parks are located off of. It is two lanes throughout the city.
  • King Road - an east-west road on the south side of the city that also forms the boundary between Riverview and Trenton. It is two lanes for a majority of its length.
  • Fort Street (M-85) - an important north-south road in the center of the city. A majority of the city's businesses and restaurants are located on Fort Street. It also serves as the boundary between Riverview and Trenton, between King and Sibley roads. It is a six lane divided highway north of Sibley and a four-lane divided highway with a forest in the median south of Sibley.
  • Notable people

    • Lloyd Carr, former University of Michigan head football coach
    • Bob Guiney, The Bachelor contestant
    • Bill McCartney, former University of Colorado head football coach, founder of Promise Keepers
    • Derek St. Holmes, vocalist for Ted Nugent
    • Woody Widenhofer, former Pittsburgh Steelers assistant football coach and former collegiate head coach

    Brian Mell President of Phi Tau and one of the founding fathers.

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