My dad used to have a gas station on Old Fort Street (now Quarry Road) near Sibley. Sometime in the 1930s or 1940s they did some major construction on Old Fort. It seems in the design of that construction someone decided that Old Fort should be routed from somewhere near Leroy in Southgate west to a road called Strong Road. Do you have any information on why they did that?
I don’t have a good answer for you as to why they rerouted Old Fort Street, other than if they tried to run the new double lane down Quarry Road they would not have had enough room. Plus, Old Fort dead ended at the Sibley Quarry.
Rerouting from Leroy in Southgate west through all of the farmland – like Singer Farm and others – was probably the easiest and cheapest way to go.
Before the 1940s construction, Old Fort Street used to run straight to the Sibley Quarry to accommodate the quarry and the trucks that used to haul limestone to the Solvay Company, located somewhere in Delray. Solvay would crush the stone and make cement.
Follow closely now, because this is where it gets confusing.
Before the reconfiguration, Old Fort Street was a double lane highway that came from the Rouge bridge in Detroit and went south through Lincoln Park and Wyandotte and Southgate (then known as Ecorse Township). It terminated at Leroy into a single two-lane road that then went south on Quarry to Sibley.
The newly configured, paved double lane Fort Street (then called Super Fort) was rerouted west to the intersection of Pennsylvania and Strong Road (now Fort Street) and then south through Riverview to Sibley Road. At Sibley, Fort was reduced to a two-lane road and continued to West Road.
I am sure your dad was disappointed (to put it mildly) with the move. It seems your dad had only opened his station for a few years before state road commission re-designed the streets around him.
The sad turn did not get your dad down, however, Instead, he brought property on the corner of Pennsylvania and the new Super Fort Street and by the early 1940s had built a brand new Mobil gas station.
Your dad rebuilt the station at least two more times, once in 1967 and once in 1979.
I have a lot of memories of your dad. He was a real “self-made” man.
There were stories that your dad never threw anything away, especially cement blocks from other construction jobs. He saved them and when it was time, he had you and your brother clean the mortar off the old blicks to build the new station. He also built many other buildings around town, many of which are now gone.
He once cut short a visit with me because they were renovating a house he had built to turn it into an American Legion hall. He said he had to get over to talk to them because they were going to eliminate interior walls. He said there probably wasn’t a 2×4 more than four feet long in the whole house and he had to warn them that if they weren’t careful it could collapse.
I remember talking to him when he was out of the hospital and recovering from pneumonia.
“Jerry,” he said with a wry grin, “I was so sick I thought I was going to die and all I could think about was leaving all my money to my kids. I had to get better to avoid this from happening.”
But your dad was a generous man.
He built a ranch-style house for his mother and father on the corner of Vreeland and Quarry, he was a member of the Riverview school board and also a member of the Riverview Planning Commission for many years.
Rest in peace, old friend,
Note: When I-75 was constructed the state highway commission constructed another two-lane road on the west side of the old two-lane M-85 at Fort Street and Sibley, so there was a northbound two-lane and a southbound two-lane all the way through Trenton to I-75. It is the configuration we recognize today.