The town of Buchanan was named by a miller, John Hamilton, who platted and recorded it in the county seat at Berrien Springs in 1842. Hamilton chose the name in honor of Senator James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, who later became the 15th President of the United States. He had taken the side of the Territory of Michigan when it was battling for statehood from 1835 to 1937.
Buchanan was incorporated March 3, 1858, when a sudden growth of the town required some attention in the way of improving primitive utilities, streets, sidewalks, and fire control, and to insure that peace and safety of the growing settlement. The population at the time of incorporation was reported to be about 860.
The City of Buchanan, including housing developments in adjoining Buchanan Township and the nearby Niles and Bertrand Townships, boasts a population of approximately 10,000 and is located in the southwestern section of Berrien County.The city of well-kept homes and modern and varied businesses is situated in the beautiful valley formed by McCoy’s Creek and the picturesque St. Joseph River, surrounded on all sides by gradually rising hills. The population of Buchanan proper is currently 4,681 (2000 census)
Buchanan is organized under the Home Rule Act of Michigan, which authorizes cities to formulate their own charter provisions. It has a commission form of government with five-elected commissioner and a city manager as the chief administrative officer. The city is divided into four voting precincts.
Located just 13 miles northwest of South Bend, Indiana, 90 miles east of Chicago, and 200 miles west of Detroit, the entire Midwest is accessible with the East-West Indiana Toll Road situated 1 mile south of Buchanan and Michigan’s freeway, Interstate 94, beginning just 15 miles west of the city limits. Chicago’s loop is less than two hours away. US-12 provides the city with a low volume, east-west link to the US-31 St. Joseph Valley Parkway.
Another Attractive feature of Buchanan is climate. It is generally snowy in winter with an average winter temperature of 22 degrees and average summer temperature of 82 degrees. Rainfall averages about 50 inches annually with an average snowfall of about 85 inches.
The fire station has a chief, sixteen volunteer firefighters, a ladder truck, pumper truck and utility van. The police department has nine full time officers, a number of reserve officers, the chief’s vehicle and three patrol cars.
Buchanan is located in the heartland of one of the largest non-citrus fruit growing areas in the United States. Area fruit crops include cherries, apples, peaches, pears, grapes, strawberries and raspberries. Conventional farm crops include grain and vegetables. The soil condition is unique, with soil varieties ranging from sandy to sandy clay loam types.
Buchanan has its own supply of water coming from three wells with a total of 24 miles of mains and a tertiary sewage plant, built to serve 15,000 people. Gas is provided by Semco Energy and electricity by American Electric Power.
Buchanan has three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. The middle school, completed in 1974, consists of grades 6, 7, and 8. The high school, newly renovated in 1993-94, has had continuous North Central accreditation since 1924. The Buchanan School District includes all the City of Buchanan, and parts of Buchanan, Niles, Bertrand and Oronoko Townships. Buchanan schools are participants in the State of Michigan Schools of Choice program.
Institutions of higher learning are within easy driving distances of the city. The University of Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College, Bethel College and Indiana University are located around South Bend, Indiana. Andrews University is located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, just 13 miles to the north. Lake Michigan College is located in Benton Harbor, 22 miles north, with an additional south county campus opened in 1998 at Bertrand Crossing, a new business park located at US-31 and US-12. Southwestern Michigan College is located in Dowagiac, 20 miles away, and has expanded their Niles Campus, just minutes away on US-12.
Located on the big bend of the interstate St. Joseph River, Buchanan has excellent facilities for boating and river fishing. Myriad lakes in the area provide additional boating, fishing and swimming sites. Public access and launch sites on the St. Joseph River are located at St. Joseph River below the dam and on North Redbud Trail above the dam at Redbud Riverfront Park.
Camping facilities include Fuller’s Resort and Campground on Clear Lake, and Bear Cave Resort, boasting the only natural cave in Michigan. Cave tours are open to the public.
Brookwood Golf Course is a challenging and enjoyable 18 hole course spread over 6540 yards of rolling fairways. A par 72 course, it is on of the finest golf courses in the Michiana area.
Fernwood Botanic Garden provides pleasures for the body, mind and soul in every season. Be sure to discover the secret gardens and tranquil woodland trails in the beautiful St. Joseph River Setting.
Pears Mill, open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, is the last of the 13 mills, which at one time lined the mill race and McCoy’s Creek. Built in 1857, this working mill has been restored with water wheel and millstones to grind flour and cornmeal still.
Tabor Hill Winery & Restaurant on Mt. Tabor Road provides tasting tours and a superb dining experience in a casual country setting. There are many other wineries located near Buchanan.
Buchanan provides many athletic and recreational programs for children and teens through the Community Education Office and the Buchanan Area Recreation Board. Some of those include baseball and softball leagues, indoor hockey, Junior Bucks basketball and supervised parks programs in the summer. Some other activities include T-Ball, Little League, Pony League, Rocket Football, Optimist Soccer League, and local sports camps in basketball and tennis.
The public district library is a source of information and entertainment. In addition to the vast collection of fiction, children’s programs, and computer access for the public, there is a fantastic local history collection.
Arts and culture is another wonderful aspect of our community here is Buchanan. The Buchanan Art Center established in 2004, offers monthly art exhibits and art classes and hold an extensive ceramic program for the public. The Tin Shop Theatre run by the Buchanan Area Fine Arts Council offers summer plays and children’s workshops. Buchanan’s Common Outdoor Theatre offers seasonal concerts and elementary summer programs for children of all ages.
From the months of May till October the Buchanan Farmers’ Market located north of the Common area is open each Saturday for local produce, crafts and perishables.
In summary, Buchanan is uniquely situated so that its citizens can enjoy the friendliness and comfort of a small town and yet, within a short drive, shop a mall or enjoy world-class cultural events. We are surrounded by cultural, intellectual and recreational opportunities. Our city is well managed and our rural areas are largely unspoiled. Within a very brief time, one could be in the midst of crowds or entirely alone in virgin woodlands.
Traditional values mark the quality of life in the Buchanan area, while we remain poised to meet the promise and the challenge of our future.