1935: A Trailblazing Highway Welcome Center is Introduced in the Wolverine State

May 4, 1935

In the southwestern corner of Michigan, a new milestone for travel in the United States took place with the opening of the nation’s first official highway welcome center at a state border to assist tourists. The new travel lodge and information bureau was built along U.S. Highway 12, south of the city of New Buffalo and just north of the state’s boundary with Indiana. 

This facility had been constructed by the Michigan State Highway Department (the present-day Michigan Department of Transportation). The principal speakers during the dedication ceremonies for the welcome center were State Highway Commissioner Murray D. Van Wagoner, who became the Wolverine State’s 38th governor during the next decade; Raymond M. Foley, the state director of the Federal Housing Administration from 1934 to 1945; and Horatio S. Earle, who had served Michigan’s first state highway commissioner between 1903 and 1909. (Earle passed away towards the end of 1935 at the age of 80.)

More than 200 resort and civic leaders were also on hand for the grand opening of the welcome center. Later that day, both a celebratory banquet and roundtable discussion were held for attendees at a local hotel. 

Other states followed Michigan’s lead. Within a half-century after the debut of that first travel information center, there were approximately 250 similar facilities in existence nationwide. (The above photo of the current version of the New Buffalo Welcome Center was taken in 2013.)

Photo Credit: Chris Light (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license at Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International — CC BY-SA 4.0)

For more information on the New Buffalo Welcome Center, please check out New Buffalo Welcome Center – MichMarkers

A video highlighting this welcome center’s history is available at MDOT commemorates 75 years of the New Buffalo Welcome Center – YouTube

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