Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, February 25, 2001, pg. 8
We’ve just added some more classic Historical Notebook articles from years past to our internet site, in addition to recent ones. Re-live the historic days of Albion’s yesteryear by going to: www.albionmich.com. Click on the Albion History Directory, then the Historical Notebook option. You’ll then reach my page. Scroll it down to the Albion Historical Notebook Morning Star articles, click that on, and you’ll get a list of 10 years of articles you can choose to click on and read. Spread the word about this site to anyone you know who uses the internet.
This week we’ll feature the origin of another Albion street name. Have you noticed that Albion has a new state highway? Let’s welcome M-199 to our city. If you’re wondering "where’s that?," I’ve spotted brand new M-199 state highway and intersecting road signs along Austin Avenue beginning at N. Eaton St., westwards on Michigan Ave to 26 Mile Road, then northwards up the hill past Starr Commonwealth and the new KCC facility that is being constructed, to the bridge over I-94 where M-199 ends. A three mile highway. Perhaps we should welcome our new state highway with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the west city limits in front of Culligan, and offer free cups of purified water for everyone. Strangely, the highway ends at Eaton St. and does not continue on Austin and Superior to meet M-99 by the post office.
Of course this new state highway designation will be helpful this summer as a detour route to avoid the messy reconstruction of the 28 Mile Road bridge over I-94 and the N. Eaton St. reconstruction/widening. Since Austin Ave is a state highway, its maintenance is paid for by the state. This is one less street our city has to worry about paving and paying for. How about making all our streets state highways? That way we wouldn’t need a street millage. I suggest the state taking over bumpy W. Oak and W. Walnut Sts. to begin with. Try driving on them and you’ll see what I mean. Name them M-899 and M-999 respectively, two blocks long, each. We’ll figure out some way to pave our roads.
What today is Michigan Avenue both east and west of Albion was constructed in the 1830s by Jesse Crowell, to access the Territorial Road (now C Drive North), which was the main thoroughfare upon which the pioneer settlers traveled across Michigan. When our state roads were modernized with the advent of the automobile, Michigan Ave was the first inter-city road in our area to be paved. This was during World War I when it was known as M-17. It’s hard to believe, but Michigan Ave between Albion and Marshall was originally paved with brick, and the underlying brick still forms a base for the road today. During the 1920s Michigan Avenue was re-designated U.S.-12, which remained until I-94 opened in 1960. It was also named the "Red Arrow Highway" across the state in the 1950s. After I-94 opened the road was renamed Michigan Avenue. Now part of it is designated M-199.
In town, part of the road is known locally as Austin Avenue. It was named after Charles F. Austin (1836-1899) who was Albion’s first mayor when Albion became a city in 1885. Austin lived at 708 N. Clinton St. (the house is still standing today) across the street from the North Ward School. Austin School too was named for him when it was erected in 1911. Charles served on the Albion Board of Education from 1879 until his death, and was school board president in the 1890s. Previously, Austin Avenue had been known as Marshall Road.
From our Historical Notebook we present a photograph of Charles F. Austin, the namesake of Austin Avenue, now part of the new M-199 State highway.
Mayor Charles F. Austin
Next: IRWIN AVENUE
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic