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Being situated on the western shores of Lake Saint Clair, the city’s name is taken from the lake. An expedition led by the French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle named it Lac Sainte-Claire, because they entered the lake on August 12, 1679, the feast day of Saint Clare of Assisi. The lake is named on English maps as early as 1710 as Saint Clare. But as early as the Mitchell Map in 1755, the spelling is presented with the current spelling as St. Clair. The name is sometimes attributed as honoring the American Revolutionary War General and Governor of the Northwest Territory Arthur St. Clair, but the name was in use with the current spelling long before St. Clair was a notable figure. However it is possible that earlier name of the lake was conflated with that of the general in naming some of the political entities near the lake and the river, such as St. Clair County St. Clair Township, and the cities of St. Clair and St. Clair Shores.
The origin of the name has also been confused with that Patrick Sinclair, a British officer who purchased land on the St. Clair River at the outlet of the Pine River. There, in 1764, he built Fort Sinclair, which was in use for nearly twenty years before being abandoned.
The area was inhabited by French settlers as early as 1710, at which time it was called L’anse Creuse. (L’anse Creuse was also the name of a stop on the now-defunct interurban railroad off of Jefferson Ave near Nine Mile Road, and the name lives on today in the L’Anse Creuse Public Schools in central Macomb County, MI and L’Anse Creuse High School in Harrison Twp.)
From 1843 until 1911, St. Clair Shores was a part of Erin Township, parts of which make up today’s Eastpointe, the Grosse Pointes and St. Clair Shores. In 1911, the township’s name changed to Lake Township. Lake Township existed until 2009, when residents of the village of Grosse Pointe Shores (that portion of Grosse Pointe Shores in Macomb County located within Lake Township) voted to incorporate as a city.
The city once was home to an amusement park named Jefferson Beach. Built in 1927, it featured the longest roller coaster in the United States. In 1955, a fire destroyed several buildings in the park. While Jefferson Beach attempted to rebuild, its owners slowly converted the park to a marina. In 1959, the remaining amusement park buildings were destroyed to make room for the marina.
With help from its location along the shores of Lake Saint Clair, St. Clair Shores grew from a resort community to a suburban city rapidly after World War II. Prior to the city’s incorporation in 1951, St. Clair Shores was recognized as the largest village in the United States.
Today St. Clair Shores is known for boating and home to many boat lovers. With many marina’s located on the nautical mile and even a city owned marina, it is easy to come home from work and go boating on Lake St. Clair as you watch the Sunset. Also with many Lakefront homes and Canal front homes makes St. Clair Shores a very desirable place to live for the boat lover.
The tallest building in St. Clair Shores is the 28-story Shore Club Highrise, known locally as “9 Mile Tower”, located on Nine Mile Road and Jefferson Avenue near Lake Saint Clair.
Each year, St. Clair Shores hosts a popular Memorial Day Parade. The city is also known for its “Nautical Mile” – a strip of Jefferson Avenue between Nine Mile and 10 Mile roads featuring many retail establishments, boat dealers, and marinas.
St. Clair Shores is home to one of the longest running local pageants as a member of the Miss America Organization. The Miss St. Clair Shores program offers scholarships to young women in the community ages 17–24. Miss St. Clair Shores volunteers and serves her city during her preparation to compete at the Miss Michigan Pageant.
The city is also known for its connection to Detroit’s musical history. Notable locations include Car City Records on Harper between 8 and 9 Mile roads (whose employees have included many from the Detroit music scene) and the Crows Nest East, a popular music venue in the 1960s which was located on Harper and 13 Mile Road.
St. Clair Shores is also well known for its hockey association, with more state championships than any other rink in the entire state. High school hockey during the 1970s dominated the competition; one team from Lakeview even went undefeated in 1973, and won the championship. There are still signs and vintage Hockeytown bumper stickers hanging inside the arena.