About This Place
Gwinn is an unincorporated community in Marquette County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The community is in Forsyth Township at 46°16′52″N 87°26′27″W / 46.28111°N 87.44083°W / 46.28111; -87.44083 on M-35 near the forks of the east and middle branches of the Escanaba River. Gwinn is a census-designated place (CDP) for statistical purposes, and the CDP includes the nearby communities of Austin to the west and New Swanzy to the east. The population of the CDP was 1,965 at the 2000 census. The Gwinn ZIP code is 49841 and serves a much larger area, including most of Forsyth Township, as well as portions of Turin Township to the east, Wells and Ewing townships to the south, Tilden Township to the west, Richmond, Sands, West Branch, and Chocolay townships to the north.
The area was acquired by the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (CCI) in 1902, who opened the Gwinn Mine in 1905. In 1906, the president of CCI, William Gwinn Mather, commissioned the well-known Boston landscape designer, Warren H. Manning to design a residential community to support the mining operations. Mather named the community after his mother Elizabeth Lucy Gwinn. Streets were laid out and ground was broken for the first houses in 1907. Construction was primarily carried out between then and 1915. Manning emphasized Gwinn’s connection to the surrounding environment by preserving many of the existing trees and planting new ones. Eventually, over 8 percent of the cost of the town's construction was allocated to outdoor improvements.
The community became known as a "Model Town", a trace of which remains in the name for the local high school sports teams: the "Modeltowners". It received a Post Office in 1908. Although it began as a company town, the direct involvement of Cleveland-Cliffs in the affairs of the Gwinn gradually decreased, and by the Great Depression the company had no hand in the operation of the town. Cleveland-Cliffs began divesting itself of real estate in the town, and by 1946 had sold the last of the houses it owned. The nearby Austin Mine was also operated by Cleveland-Cliffs, which developed the Austin community in 1911 to provide residences for miners and their families. Similarly, New Swanzy took its name from the Swanzy Iron Company, formed in 1883. The original Swanzy, located further to the northeast in Forsyth Township, was the site of the Escanaba River Land & Iron Company. Swanzy was a station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad and had a post office from October 1889 until December 1905.