graphicWelcome to the Ionia area! Everyone you meet here has a warm smile and a friendly face to share with you. Even as a visitor, you are like family. Our community is richly grounded in history, which is a prologue to our exciting future. The stories people have to tell you will truly enrich your life.

It is easy to see how active the Ionia area is. Our beautiful downtown area is rich in architectural splendor. Because people are committed to excellence, Ionia’s shops and businesses are thriving. All the business and industrial entities in the area are driven to help develop jobs and economic growth. Service clubs, organizations and churches all take and active leadership role in the community. Healthcare providers are extremely involved in making life better for everyone. The Public Safety and governmental sectors are dedicated to service and progress. Opportunities for youth, families and leisure time activities abound. Many volunteer opportunities are available to help improve your quality of life and that of others. All these different segments work together to make the Ionia community a great place to work, live and visit.

The Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce is your window to the community. Come peek through the looking glass at 434 W. Main Street and see how you can live life to the fullest.

If you arrive at night, we’ll leave the lamplight on for you!

Tammy L. Alvaro
Executive Director

A Message From the Mayor

graphicWelcome to Ionia! The City of Ionia boasts some of the most beautiful historic stock in the State of Michigan, a renovated downtown business district which evokes memories of Ionia’s historic past, a modernized industrial center featuring light, medium, and heavy manufacturing, and some of the friendliest citizens in America. I hope that you will take time to enjoy our scenic beauty, and to experience the variety and history of one of Michigan’s best kept secrets.

The City of Ionia is nestled in the heart of the Grand River Valley, and is, as most people know, the home of Michigan’s Greatest Outdoor Event - The Ionia Free Fair. There is much more that Ionia has to offer, however, and it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to our community. In Ionia, we say that we are "Proud of our past and confident of our future." I am certain that once you take the time to look us over and experience the many things that Ionia has to offer, you will understand why we take such great pride in our community.

Again, welcome to the City of Ionia - one of the best kept secrets in Michigan and one of the finest small communities in the nation.

Daniel A. Balice
Mayor, City of Ionia

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graphicIonia, Michigan borrows its name from ancient history; Ionia, an ancient region occupying portions of the West coast of Asia Minor and adjacent islands in the Aegean Sea, was colonized by the Greeks c1050- 1000 B.C. Nearly three millenniums later, Ionia, Michigan marked its place in history when Samuel Dexter and his colony of 62 people arrived from Herkermer County, New York to settle along the Grand River in May 1833. Native Americans reluctantly sold their wigwams (circular huts made of bark, mats, or skins) and vegetable gardens to these early settlers for a $25.00 coin, then moved west of town, into what is now the North part of the Ionia Recreation Area.

The journey to Ionia was challenging. The group traveled by boat to Detroit on the Erie Canal, then transferred to horse-drawn wagons, cutting their way through dense forests, swamps, and streams. Many of the women, unaccustomed to severe fatigue and physical exertion, walked, oftentimes getting stuck in the marshes. Three of the children became sick with scarlet fever; two recovered. The youngest child of Samuel Dexter died from the disease about 30 miles east of Ionia; he was buried in a trunk at the foot of a large tree, on which his makeshift tombstone was inscribed. Two days later, the group finally descended upon the territory Samuel Dexter had visited and purchased the year before.

The first few years of Ionian life were difficult. By the time the settlers arrived, it was almost too late to plant crops, and a frost in late June of 1934 destroyed many of the crops that were planted. Several of the original settlers decided to move to Grand Rapids, lured by Louis Campau, who owned a successful trading post. Four men of the original colony made Ionia their permanent home: Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold and W.B. Lincoln.

graphicOliver Arnold crossed the river and opened a blacksmith shop; what developed into Arnold’s Machine Company is now the oldest family business in Ionia. Erastus Yeomans was appointed Ionia’s first postmaster under President Jackson, and W. B. Lincoln was Ionia’s first physician and school teacher. Samuel Dexter built a sawmill the September following the settlers’ arrival; a gristmill, used to ground wheat, was employed the year after, bringing much relief to residents used to travelling in poor conditions to Pontiac for flour. The mill, powered by West Creek, was located at what is now the corner of West Main Street and Dexter Street.

Gradually, Ionia grew into a thriving business community. Along with the railroad and steam power came lumberyards, brickyards, a roofing company, a furniture shop, a button factory (closed when clamshells from the Grand River could no longer be found), a pottery company, and a number of other establishments. The Ionia Sentinel Standard began recording history with its first issue published on May 1, 1886.

Ionia continued to blossom into the rich gem of culture and architecture it is today in the twentieth century. The Ionia Theatre, built Art Deco style in the 1930’s and newly restored, has entertained Ionia residents for nearly seven decades. Today, restored brick avenues and more than 200 historic homes and commercial structures, including the Ionia County Courthouse, whisper of an era gone but not forgotten. Ionia is proud of its rich and dynamic heritage, and looks forward to a future equally as promising.

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graphicNestled in the heart of Michigan, Ionia is a dynamic community of more than 6,000 residents. Situated along the Grand River, midway between Lansing and Grand Rapids, Ionia is within easy access of interstate transportation (I-96) and state highways (M-66 and M-21). The local airport offers private, commercial, and glider facilities through Benz Aviation. Both Kent County International Airport and Lansing Metropolitan Airport are a short drive away (35 miles).

The Ionia Area Transportation serves the city and two townships with Dial-A-Ride, a low-cost transportation service consisting of 14 buses, six of which have handicapped lifts, and many of whose drivers have won state-wide recognition awards. Other transportation services can be found by calling the Ionia County Commission on Aging, Community Mental Health, the Family Independence Agency, and the newly initiated Yellow Taxi.

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