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We Love Our Retail PartnersBehind The Bend

- Eric Stauble

We love our retail partners and have a pretty diverse group of them. We love them because, like us, they love to represent the areas that they are from. One in particular is a great store called Sojourn, which resides in the small lake town of Sawyer Michigan. It's location is on the Red Arrow Highway which is a highway with a pretty great history. Check out the details below.

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You may know it as old M-11, old US 31, the Red Arrow Highway or the Blue Star Highway – all names for a road that was originally called the West Michigan Pike, the first continuous concrete highway in West Michigan. Begun in 1911 as part of a strategy to bring auto tourists from Chicago to Michigan, the road was completed in 1922 and ran from New Buffalo to Mackinaw City.

The West Michigan Pike has a rich and varied history. Between 1900 and 1930, Southwest Michigan became a premier resort area known as “Chicago’s Riviera.” Many historic cottages, hotels and inns from that era still exist and provide a glimpse of a simpler way of life. While there were large “Grand Hotel-size” resorts built all along Michigan’s west coast, there were many small, humble resorts, too. They started as ‘blue sky” farms run by European immigrants who soon realized the land was too sandy for farming and that they could make more money renting rooms to their Chicago acquaintances in the summer. Later they added small cottages or expanded the main house. The small lakeshore communities in lower Southwest Michigan were often associated with specific ethnic groups: Czechs and Lithuanians in Union Pier, Swedes in Harbert, Greeks in New Buffalo, and Italians in Benton Harbor. Most notable were the Jewish resorts found along North Shore Drive in South Haven. By the 1930s, South Haven was known as the “Catskills of the Midwest” and famous Jewish entertainers performed in local clubs and restaurants.

In the 1920s, an effort to create a series of connected, safe places for auto travelers to stay resulted in the development of a series of parks along the route, including seven state parks between New Buffalo and Ludington. During the Depression, Ludington State Park was the first state park in Michigan to be constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and was a showplace for the National Park Service program. The West Michigan Pike was also important in Michigan’s early conservation history. Much of Michigan’s land had been clear cut and abandoned by the lumber industry. The state incorporated highway beautification and reforestation as part of its work to create good roads in Michigan.

If you find yourself in the area this summer definitely stop by the store. To commemorate the historic address, Sojourn has custom red Arrows from our collection that are exclusive to them. They are pretty great! We might just have to make our way out there for a visit soon too.

 

 

 

 

 


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