The First Main Road Across Michigan Was Known as the Wolverine Pavedway
When the first roads across the state of Michigan were built they followed rivers, rail lines, native trails and animal tracks. Michiganders still drive many of them today as I-94 runs parallel to the old Territorial Road, I-96 along Grand River and I-75 along Mackinac Trail.
When the first pavement was laid in the mid-1910s, the route that today is Grand River Avenue was called the Wolverine Pavedway. An image from a 1916 road atlas shared to the Abandoned Old and Interesting Places in Michigan Facebook group shows West Michigan Pike along Lake Michigan (roughly today's US 31) and East Michigan Pike along Lake Huron (roughly today's US 23). The East and West Michigan Pikes met at Mackinac City. Connecting the two, the only blazed road across the lower peninsula ran along the Grand River corridor from Detroit to Grand Haven. It was labeled either the Wolverine Highway or Wolverine Pavedway rather than today's Grand River Avenue.
A New York Times article from 1916 bears the headline "WOLVERINE PAVEDWAY Trans-State Road In Michigan to Connect Large Cities," while a postcard from the era shows a parade of cars each bearing a sign on the back declaring "We're helping build the Wolverine Pavedway."
The May 25, 1916, Clare Sentinel reported
The “Wolverine Pavedway” is the name given to the highway planned from Detroit through Lansing and Grand Rapids to Lake Michigan. It is proposed to build this road of concrete and already it seems an assured fact. Another mammoth project for which an association has been organized in the building of a concrete or brick highway from Chicago to Detroit.
When it came to paved roads, it was the Grand River corridor that came before either the corridor followed by I-94 in the state's second tier of counties (Berrien-Van Buren-Kalamazoo-Calhoun-Jackson-Washtinaw-Wayne) or the southernmost cross-state route, today's US 12, the Chicago Road or Great Sauk Trail.
What's not clear is when the Wolverine Pavedway/Wolverine Highway name went out of vogue. But it clearly did, and now that highway is a forgotten part of Michigan's motoring history.