Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, November 20, 2016, pg. 3
Irwin Avenue is one of the main entrances into our city. It was originally known as the Homer Road, because the road went to guess where?—Homer! The main property owner in town along this Avenue was Samuel V. Irwin (1823-1890), a prominent Albion banker who founded the National Exchange Bank of Albion in 1865. Irwin served on Albion’s original school board in 1867, and was one of the original stockholders of the Albion Malleable Iron Works in 1889. He was so popular that in September 1883, the Albion Village Council voted to change the name of Homer Road to Irwin Avenue.
Irwin owned a considerable amount of land and his large brick home at 103 Irwin Avenue is still standing today. In addition to banking Irwin operated a fruit tree farm there in the southwest portion of the village, and sold thousands of pear and apple trees to customers. After his death in 1890 his family sold off the land, and areas such as Mechanic St., Crandall, Lincoln, and S. Eaton Streets were opened up to housing. There were still scattered fruit trees however that still remained on the former Irwin farmland for many years thereafter.
The Michigan state highway system was instituted in 1919, and Irwin Avenue was a part of it for about ten years. At some point in the early 1920s Irwin Avenue became part of M-34 coming up from Jonesville. I’ve got an old postcard picturing Irwin Avenue with that designation. The designation of Irwin Avenue as M-34 is also found on the insert maps of Albion in our city directories of the 1920s. On February 27, 1927, the designation was changed to M-64, and appears on the 1927 State highway map of Michigan. In 1929 the route designation was changed to M-9, and I have a county map showing the Irwin Avenue route labeled as such. Shortly thereafter however around 1930, the actual route itself was changed to abandon Irwin Avenue and instead moved to today’s M-99 S. Superior St. route south to Homer via M-60. The 1930 Map of Michigan shows M-9 following that new route.
In 1940 M-9 became M-99. Irwin Avenue has sometimes been called "Old-9" by area old-timers. Too bad, because if Irwin Avenue had continued as an official state highway after 1930, it would have been paved and well maintained all these years.
The quality, or lack thereof, of the pavement on Irwin Avenue and laments from local citizens is nothing new. The Albion Recorder focused on the condition of Irwin Avenue nearly one hundred years ago in its May 28, 1918 edition, page 3 as follows: "One of the Recorder readers living in the country while we are on the subject of rough roads in the city, mention of the Irwin Avenue road, near the city limits, should not be omitted. She states that this road is a disgrace to the city. We think perhaps she is right. Some of the approaches to our city are in such wretched condition that they are capable of being a whole lot better, even if perfection cannot be attained. Why not try the road drags after a rain like yesterday’s?"
We hope that our new Albion City Council can creatively secure the proper funding to make the reconstruction of Irwin Avenue a top priority in the near future. Let your new councilperson/mayor know. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a portion of the 1927 map of Michigan showing Irwin Avenue as part of state highway M-64 coming up from Homer. With this internet version we show another map circa 1929-1930 showing it as M-9. How many of our readers have driven on Irwin Avenue recently?
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic