Dixie Highway Monument Will Soon Be Rebuilt
Residents and politicians gathered at the Dixie Highway monument in Mackinaw City in 1916, celebrating the construction of the landmark that commemorated the junction of the East Michigan Pike and West Michigan Pike that helped develop a continuous route from Sault Ste. Marie to Miami, Florida. Nearly 40 years later, the monument, which had fallen into disrepair, was torn down with little ceremony and the stones used to construct it were tossed into the lake. Now, history will repeat itself with the Mackinaw City Village Council agreeing Thursday, July 1, to construct a replica of the monument and place it where it once rested as a tribute to the village's rich history.
The Dixie monument sat at the end of East Central Avenue and marked the terminus of the East and West Michigan Pike. The idea of creating a continuous route from Sault Ste Marie to Miami originated in 1914 with Indianapolis entrepreneur Carl Graham Fisher, said local historian Ken Teysen. Mr. Fisher was interested in selling automobiles, and a continuous route would serve Mr. Fisher well, as it would encourage people to purchase and use their vehicles.
The network of interconnected paved roads was constructed and expanded from 1915 to 1927. Two divisions of the Dixie Highway were constructed, a western one that connected Chicago and Miami and an eastern division connecting Sault Ste. Marie to Miami. The creation of the highway was important as it encouraged motorists to visit northern Michigan, Mr. Teysen said.
The Dixie Highway Association oversaw the Dixie Highway until 1927, when the association was disbanded and the highway was taken over as part of the United States highway system, with parts of it becoming state roads. The eastern pike traveled the eastern side of Michigan and is now known as US- 23, Mr. Teysen noted, and the western pike traversed the western side of Michigan and is known as US- 31.
As time marched on, the Dixie monument fell into disrepair. Bill Parker, the village manager in the early 1950s, eventually had the monument removed. While rumors persist about the location of the four round plaques that once marked the four sides of the monument, no remains are known to exist.
The spot where the monument sat was empty for most of the time until 1990, when the village began reconstructing Central Avenue and North Huron Avenue, said former Mackinaw City President Robert Heilman. A clock was placed where the monument used to rest, which is now near the Dixie Saloon, and has remained there ever since.
With the village council's approval secured, work on the monument will begin in the fall. The clock will be moved west from its current position and placed on the intersection of East Central Avenue and North Huron Avenue, on the center island. Work is expected to be completed by next spring, Village Manager Jeff Lawson said, and will cost approximately $17,000.
“It just seems like whenever old pictures of Mackinaw are looked at, there's always the monument,” Trustee Dick Perlick told The St. Ignace News. The village closely associates itself with its history, he added, with Fort Michilimackinac, the Mackinaw Area Historical Society historic village, and tours often describing the village's past.
The monument “isn't real old history, but it's history,” he said.
“It has a historical significance from the automobile era that brought people north,” said Village President Jeff Hingston.
The village is seeking artifacts related to the monument and anyone who may have one is asked to contact the Village Hall.