Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, June 11, 2000, pg. 5
We are about to observe an anniversary which changed Albion forever--the opening of Interstate-94 north of town. I-94 was constructed during the late 1950s as the "U.S. 12 By-pass" to handle increased traffic between Detroit and Chicago. The strip north of Albion was the last to open and joined the two links that had ended near Parma and Marshall/Battle Creek. All traffic previously had to travel down Michigan Avenue through Albion, up N. Superior St., and on Austin Avenue. Even then it was crowded. I-94 was opened on July 4, 1960. This year 2000 marks the 40th anniversary.
The opening had an instant impact upon business, particularly in downtown Albion. No longer were thousands of vehicles traveling through town. Rather, they went whizzing by our community. Entrepreneurs realized the business potential of locating by the Duck Lake Road (28 Mile Road) exit. The Holiday Inn on C Drive North was opened, but the Parker Inn on Michigan Ave in town was closed as its business declined drastically in years to come. Among the business establishments that sprang up near the 28-Mile Road interchange after I-94 opened was the American Way Restaurant.
In September 1961, construction began on two service stations opposite each other at the 28-Mile Road exit. They were the Enco and Standard service stations. The following year construction on the American Way restaurant began next door to the Standard station, and it opened on March 21, 1963. The address was 13000 28 Mile Rd.
The American Way was a "satellite" business of the American Oil Company (owner of Standard Oil stations) and the Albion site was the very first store of a chain of such restaurants they hoped to build, totaling about 200 facilities. The next two constructed were in Flint, and in Greenwood, Indiana.
The oil company had surveyed locations within a 300 mile radius of Chicago, and decided that Albion showed the best potential for future development and expansion. Thus they opened their first restaurant here. It was open 24-hours a day, and featured regular sit-down meals, as well as a snack-bar. There was also a tourist gift shop.
By 1968 the company decided that business wasn’t so good. It was sold and became Cole’s Town & Country Restaurant. This operated through the late 1970s when the facility was sold and became the Paradise Inn. From our Historical Notebook this week we present a September, 1964 photograph of the American Way Restaurant in its heyday. Notice how small the bushes are in front of the building and the well manicured landscaping. Notice too the "full view" windows all around the building. More on the 40th anniversary of the opening of I-94 next week.
The American Way
Next: I-94 RAILROAD CROSSING
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic