US-16 existed from 1926 – 1962. It ran across the Lower Peninsula and right through Lowell Township. Today this is Cascade road.
This route, originally a footpath called ‘Grand River Trail’ was begun by the earliest native settlers here. As the Europeans came they widened, straightened and worked on the trail so that in 1850 Detroit to Lansing could be traveled by toll plank roads. The planks deteriorated but the roads were improved and became public, not toll, roads. The Michigan State Highway Department began designating roads throughout the state as “state trunk lines” around 1909, and began working on the Grand River Road from Detroit all the way to Lake Michigan. From 1918 until 1926, the route was M-16. It began in Detroit and ended in Grand Haven. In 1926 it was changed to US-16, and it became just a segment in a highway which ended at Yellowstone National Park. The crossing of Lake Michigan between Muskegon and Milwaukee was via railroad car ferry.
An overnight stop for travelers could be arranged at the large brick house at the top of the hill at 12434 Cascade Road. The Wingeier family operated “Tourist Rooms” in their home, the equivalent of today’s bed and breakfast, during the 1920s and 30s. This house still stands and was the Graham-Proctor/Wingeier/Shores/Vandeziel house.
In 1929, the first publicly accessible roadside picnic table on state government right of way was placed on US-16 near the corner of Morrison Lake Road in Boston Township. It was built by Alan Williams, an Ionia County road engineer who was working along the road and noticed picnickers spreading out their lunch on the ground. He made some tables from damaged and discarded highway materials and placed them along the highway. The state began receiving thank you letters from appreciative motorists. In the next five years Ionia County built and placed more than 1000 tables for rest areas. A Historical marker now marks the spot of the first Roadside Table in Michigan.
The ‘Lowell Road’ is what the roads were called that came into Lowell. South of town the Lowell Road is today called ‘Segwun Avenue’. It connected Lowell to US-16. The intersection of US-16 and the Lowell Road was very busy. The old Lowell Township Hall stood there, along with businesses to meet travelers’ needs. On the southwest corner was a gas station and small grocery store known as Shorty’s in the 1960s (the building remains). On the northwest corner was the Lucky Inn and Oil Station. In 1953 it had been purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Leo Blocher and the new owners advertised a Father’s Day special of a chicken dinner for $1.15!
US-16 was the route for the Greyhound bus line. The Lucky Inn also housed the Greyhound Bus Depot for the Lowell intersection. You could board, buy tickets, and send packages from there.
Further along the road to the east overlooking Pratt Lake was The Coffee Cup Truck Stop. They served food especially for truckers (1950s).
Back to the west on the SW corner of Alden Nash, there used to be a gas station and garage where oil changes and mechanical work could be done. (Garage building remains.) One memory shared was that one day when the storyteller was young, he and his friends saw the notorious gangster Al Capone pull up and purchase gas at that station. Capone had hide-outs in Michigan.
Residents along US 16 in the 1950s prior to the opening of I 96 recall that traffic was so heavy at times, especially on Saturdays after a home MSU football game, that the locals could not enter the highway. This was the main thoroughfare between Grand Rapids and Lansing.
In 1956 the interstate highway act was signed and Interstate 96 was begun and now runs the same general route. In 1962 US-16 was decommissioned in Michigan, ending an era and a traffic pattern, as the newer Interstate created the need for new roads leading directly from the exit to Lowell. The section of today’s Alden Nash was built and is the home of the new Lowell Township Hall. This change of traffic pattern has left few clues as the restaurant and Township Hall buildings are gone, but if you have wondered why the road out of town is Segwun but quickly veers off and becomes Alden Nash, and why there is a private residence at the intersection of two seemingly quiet country roads that looks suspiciously like a vintage fuel station, now you know!
"Old 16 is actually named Grand River Avenue. In Ionia Co. the name Cascade Rd. changes to Grand River Avenue. Sections of the road in East Lansing, Farmington Hills and Detroit have that name as well as others."
"When my husband and I were first married we rented a house that was on the corner of Alden Nash and Cascade road, where Heidi's Farmstand now sits. We were told that Al Capone frequented that house. Not sure if it was true or not."
Goldie Tudor Callihan
"Thanks for sharing this great post. In the late 50’s our parents built a house on the end of Bancroft. A 1/2 mile dead end road that runs off what we called old 16 (Cascade). We actually got to ride our bikes up and down the expressway while it was being built. Remember Shorty’s well and my grandma use to help out there at the store. Thank you again! You’ve made my day."
"Wow...all of those locations are memories for me. I remember Shorty's so well. Our Grandma went on a dinner date (once) with him. Uncle Duane would take us up to Shorty's and buy us a "road apple" candy bar. Sweet memories of those times."
Charmine Woodman Hoyer
"I remember going to Jimmy's Grille on Sunday for the fried chicken dinner. Believe it was on Old 16 between Cascade and Lowell. Does anyone remember?"
"Use to walk to Shorty's in the early 60s from our cousins farm for popsicles or ice cream bars in the summer. Then go back and play around in the barn making tunnels with the hay bales. Those were the days!"