Looking Back: Hunter House Hamburgers

Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 7, 2015


With the fast-growing popularity of automobiles in the 1910s, Woodward Avenue was already booming from Detroit to Pontiac, despite being two lanes and not fully paved. The busy road caused traffic backups for miles, but business and civic leaders saw potential for economic growth from the travel.

In 1921, the Wider Woodward Association was formed to lobby for a wider, faster design for the road that would also allow for businesses and residential communities to exist on either side. After two years of effort, the 1923 Kirby Act called for a 200-foot expansion of the roadway that included four lanes in either direction all the way from Detroit to downtown Pontiac.

The project was handed over to the Michigan Department of Transportation, and over the next 10 years, the road we now know as Woodward Avenue was formed.

But to widen Woodward at the present-day intersection of Maple and Old Woodward would have meant demolishing the historic Briggs and First National Bank buildings, currently occupied by Lululemon and Cosi. After some deliberation, the state determined that the best alternative was to move the railroad that ran alongside Woodward and use the cleared space for a bypass of downtown Birmingham.

On Nov. 3, 1939, Detroiters gathered in downtown Birmingham to celebrate the grand reopening of Woodward at the current fork of Old Woodward and Woodward Avenue. In honor of one of the four founders of Birmingham, the bypass was named Hunter Boulevard. When the little white Detroit-style slider spot opened in 1952, it was only natural to name it after the notorious bypass.

Learn more about Woodward Avenue during the current exhibition, “History’s Highway: The Story of Woodward Avenue,” at the Birmingham Historical Museum and Park, located at 556 W. Maple Road in downtown Birmingham.

— Dan Patton, Birmingham Historical Museum and Park