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Woodward Avenue History

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Logo Historys Highway Woodward AveWoodward Avenue is so much more than the paved highway we see carrying volumes of traffic along its route from Detroit to Pontiac. This exhibit explored the many ways this route has served people in its 10,000 year history.
  Projectile Points Early 17th century map  Saginaw Plank Road Toll Rates  DUR Car

Woodward Avenue as a dirt roadIn 1921, local business leaders and developers joined together as the Wider Woodward Association to lobby the state to expand Woodward Avenue in order to limit congestion and stimulate commercial and residential growth. The efforts of this organization came to light in 1923 passed the Kirby Act calling for a 200 ft. expansion of the roadway with four traffic lanes in each direction from the Detroit city limits to downtown Pontiac. Enlarging Woodward Ave. this much required demolishing some buildings and even relocated some graves in Machpelah Cemeteries south of Nine Mile Rd. However, the greatest impediment to the process was downtown Birmingham as it was not feasible to dismantle the commercial strip surround the Woodward and Maple. Therefore, the state determined that the Grand Trunk Western Railroad should be relocated to allow of the construction of a route to bypass Downtown. Crews from the Michigan Department of Transportation finally broke ground on the project in 1932 after about a decade of planning.

Hunter Boulevard Opening On November 3rd, 1939, Detroiters gathered in downtown Birmingham to celebrate the grand reopening of the completion of Woodward at this most ambitious portion of the project, the current fork of Old Woodward and Woodward Avenue. In honor of one of the four founders of Birmingham, the 8 lane, 1.4 mile long bypass was named Hunter Blvd. while the original strip through downtown maintained the Woodward moniker. This ultimately proved to cause unnecessary confusion so in September of 1997 the bypass was formally renamed Woodward Avenue and the downtown strip Old Woodward. This would prove to be the largest change of address in Michigan history.

Maple and Woodward Street Sign

Woodward looking South to Maple      Old Woodward and Maple

The most desirable commercial address in Birmingham? Anywhere near the corner of Maple and (S. Old) Woodward!