Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 18, 2001, pg. 11
This year weíre going to see alot of road work along the I-94 Business Loop in Albion, much of it on the former U.S. 12 highway. This was once part of the main artery between Detroit and Chicago, and by the 1950s the two-lane road had become clogged with traffic. This year we plan on featuring some articles about our business route. If youíve got old photographs of businesses on U.S.-12 and on N. Eaton St., let me know. Iím particularly looking for 1950s era photos to borrow.
Numerous "Drive-In" restaurants, the predecessors of the fast food restaurants, sprang up during the 1950s. In the Albion area we had the "Tik-Tok" Drive-In on Austin Avenue, while on Jackson Road (thatís what Michigan Avenue east of town was once called) there was the A & W Restaurant Drive-In, Trippittís Drive-In, and the Star Light Drive-In. The latter was located at 1630 Jackson Road, and was operated by Alonzo B. Core in 1951.
If the name Star Light sounds familiar, it should. The Drive-In there became the site of a modern 1950s-era "courtyard" type facility called the Star Lite Motel. It was a 16-unit, AAA-rated motel owned by Mike Nester[enko] (1910-1999), a native of Saratoff, Russia who grew up in Albion. Mike of course was a local entrepreneur who owned Nester Metal Products on Austin Avenue. The Star Lite Motel opened on Sunday, August 23, 1952, and was managed for several years by Harry and Thelma Gardner. The Star Lite was the first Motel in the Albion area to compete with the bulky and traditional Parker Inn Hotel a mile away.
The Star Lite was designed for busy travelers who wanted to easily go "in and out," and get on their way. A guest would park their car outside directly in front of their room and enter from the outside. This was unlike traditional motels where you had to enter an inside lobby and walk through a hallway. Like the Drive-In restaurants, the Star Lite design concept was a prelude to the highway-access hotels we have today. There was also a little restaurant/cafe in the front center of the complex, designed to meet the needs of the hotel guests. Local people too would eat here.
When Interstate-94 opened in July, 1960, there was a considerable reduction of traffic into Albion. The need for food and bedding lessened, and the Drive-Ins around Albion were closed, except the A & W which moved to N. Eaton St. from its original scenic "across from Brooks Foundry" site. Food, lodging, and fuel businesses flocked to N. Eaton St. near the I-94 interchange. The Star Lite Restaurant, too was closed, and the building demolished. The Motel was sold to Gerald Adams who operated during the 1970s. In the 1980s it was owned by Ralph B. Hock, and called the Sunshine Motor Lodge. In the early 1990s the Motel was closed, and converted into individual apartments as they remain today.
From our Historical Notebook we present an artistís 1950s tourist postcard of the Star Lite Motel, with the Cafe in the center. Notice the AAA emblem, and the box boasting "Preview Television in Rooms." In the background we see a beautiful landscape. If you look closely, yes, those are mountains in the distance! How many of our readers remember the Star Lite Motel?
Star Lite Motel Postcards
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All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic