Advance Notice: Briefs

On this day in 1909: Woodward Avenue in Detroit is paved with concrete 

By: - April 20, 2023 3:22 am

Woodward Avenue in Detroit | Ken Coleman

On April 20, 1909, Woodward Avenue in Detroit made history when it became a paved road. Over the years, it has been described as the “world’s first concrete highway.” 

The Woodward Avenue road construction, carried out by Wayne County, came at a time when several streets in the Motor City were lined with brick pavers, with wood, ground granite, asphalt, dirt or clay sometimes used. 

The section included one mile between Six Mile Road and Seven Mile Road. It cost $1,400 to construct, which included about $1,000 in state funds.  

The street is named after Augustus B. Woodward, a judge who led the city of Detroit beginning in 1805, during Michigan’s early years as a territory. Woodward was appointed by President Thomas Jefferson to manage the territory.   

The road was replaced in 1922 by the broad thoroughfare that exists today. Sections of Woodward Avenue in Detroit have included street cars over the years. It is also home to the city of Detroit governmental headquarters. 

In 1910, auto baron Henry Ford built a plant on the street near Woodward Avenue in the city of Highland Park. Overall, Woodward Avenue extends 27 miles from Detroit’s riverfront north to the city of Pontiac, taking in communities such as Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Birmingham and Royal Oak, among others.    

In 1957, a Michigan historical marker was erected at the Woodward Avenue site on the grounds of Detroit’s Palmer Park. 


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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.