Step Back in Time at Walker Tavern Historic Site in Lenawee County

It’s amazing how much history there is to explore in Pure Michigan. If you head towards Lenawee County, there’s plenty to uncover. Read on as the team at the Michigan History Center shares the story behind one of the area’s historic gems – Walker Tavern Historic Site.

Historical buildings at Walker Tavern Historic Site.
Walker Tavern Historic Site | Photo Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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The Irish Hills in Southern Michigan offer visitors a chance to enjoy the outdoors with a picnic, swimming in a local lake or camping at one of several campgrounds. One of the area’s long time summer destinations is Walker Tavern Historic Site at Cambridge Junction, near Brooklyn.

In the 1840s, Cambridge Junction, the busy intersection at US-12 and M-50 created the need for a wayside tavern. Most travelers on the two roads were looking for farms to purchase. Today’s travelers are looking for rest, relaxation and a fun experience.

The site is comprised of an 1840s barn, 80 acres of land and often hosts concerts and baseball games. Railroads built in the 1850s turned Cambridge Junction from stagecoach hub to community gathering place. With the advent of the automobile at the beginning of the 20th century, life at Cambridge Junction began to change.

Walker Tavern in the summer
Walker Tavern | Photo Courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

In 1922, the Reverand Frederick Hewitt purchased the old frame tavern and transformed it into an antiques shop, hotel, restaurant and museum, capitalizing on the automobile tourism. A day’s ride by car from Detroit, the Irish Hills drew thousands of vacationers like Henry and Clara Ford and Michigan Governor Woodbridge Ferris. In 1965 Hewitt’s daughter sold the frame tavern and the land around it to the state, and it became Cambridge Junction State Park.

Today, the park offers visitors the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Irish Hills and imagine a time of stagecoaches and one of early automobiles while enjoying a baseball game, concert or the famer’s market.