Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Albion Recorder, March 14, 2002, pg. 13
In a few weeks the construction crews will be out for “part two” of their improvement of Albion’s busiest thoroughfare: N. Eaton St. They certainly got a head start on the remaining portion of the bridge over I-94 due to a long season, and hopefully Albion residents will be able to drive over a new bridge and a completely new paved and widened street by the end of the summer months.
If N. Eaton St. seemed like a war zone last year as cars tried to weave in and out of driveways around construction barrels, perhaps in a way it was. You see, Eaton Street was named after the U.S. Secretary of War. John Henry Eaton (1790-1856) served in that position under U.S. President Andrew Jackson from 1829-1834. Eaton also served as Governor of Florida, and as a minister to Spain. Eaton Street was one of Albion’s original streets when our town was platted by Jesse Crowell in 1836.
Eaton St. used to be called Duck Lake Road north of town, depending on wherever the city limits ended, beginning with Broadwell Avenue northwards. As boundaries were changed, so did the name of the street at various positions. When I-94 was built, a third name was added: 28 Mile Road and it is interesting to find all three names listed for different addresses in city directories in the early 1960s.
The big commercial development on N. Eaton St. which helped make the area what it is today was the Town and Country Shopping Center. It was developed in the 1950s on the east side of the street on the former farmland of Albion physician Dr. Ara D. Sharp (1891-1970). One of the first businesses to develop at the site was Felpausch Foods, which opened on November 23, 1954. South of Felpausch was Sharp’s Hardware, and north of Felpausch was the Starlite Drive-In, later called A & W. The “Town and Country Branch” of the Bank of Albion later located itself between A & W and Felpausch. Grant’s Department Store was erected on the site where K-Mart is located today. The Standard Oil gas station opened in 1961, and next door the American Way Restaurant came in 1963.
The new commercial development attracted other businesses, especially after Interstate-94 opened in 1960. Across the street Albion Motors came and sold Ford automobiles, and several gas stations were placed along the route such as Pure Oil, Enco, and Standard Oil. There were several business with their own character, such as the Satellite Drive-In with its imitation Mercury space capsule out front, and a trampoline place next door (south) that soon gained a reputation for injuries and show-offs. It wasn’t there for long. Albion’s answer to Shoppers Fair in Jackson was the Yankee Department Store, with the Kroger Supermarket, and Cunningham Drugs located in the same building. One feature of “Yankee Plaza” place along N. Eaton St. was its massive asphalt parking lot.
When the U.S.12 by-pass was under construction in the late 1950s, N. Eaton St. was widened to accommodate the future Interstate-94 business route. Road concrete was poured in front of Felpausch, and someone drove their car over the fresh cement, ruining the pavement at that point which had to be replaced and delayed the reopening of the street. History has a way of repeating itself. Last fall someone drove across the landscaping where a Felpausch driveway was removed onto N. Eaton St., and the grass/dirt still bears the deep tire tracks today. One casulty of the widening of N. Eaton St. was the loss of majestic shade trees, similar to how the trees were also removed up and down the street this past fall.
From the Archives this week we present an unusual view of N. Eaton St. looking south from what today is the parking lot north of Fresh ‘N Fast. This photograph was taken on August 8, 1956 during a “Youth Booster Day” fundraising event in which over 1,500 persons participated in a smorgasbord dinner in the Felpausch parking lot. On the right, in addition to the fronts of automobiles, can be seen the large shade trees that once lined the street. In the distance is the commercial sign “Site of Town & Country Shopping Center. Commercial Lots Available.” In the distance on the left is Felpausch Foods, while parking is being directed by local boy scouts on the grassy field.
Parking lot on North Eaton Street, August 8, 1956, “Youth Booster Day”
Next: RAILROAD CROSSINGS
All text copyright, 2021 © all rights reserved Frank Passic