500 W Main Street, once known as The Western House, built in 1873, has been Brewery Becker since 2014. Much of the integrity and history remains in the building today, and was kept a priority by the owners when renovating and remodeling. Visit the Brewery for a step back in time and a true experience.
The Western House
The Michigan Preservation website tells us, The Western House is a three-story, Italianate, brick structure which retains many original detailings. A simple cornice still graces the former hotel, the tallest building in the surrounding streetscape of downtown Brighton. The remarkable building continues to display the original arrangement of doors and windows on the public facades. Simple brick pilasters accentuate the corners and frame the central bay of the five bay front. A wide brick frieze and bracketed metal cornice crown the building. The doors and windows possess the characteristic curves of the commercial Italianate style. The first floor features fully arched windows and fanlights above the doors. A belt course separates the first and second floors on the more elaborate sides.
The high degree of architectural integrity still present in the Western House constitutes an important part of the brick Italianate structure’s significance. Another central component is the building’s ability to illustrate a major period of expansion for the City of Brighton. The railroad’s arrival at a critical point in 1871 precipitated a time of prosperity and building for both the community and the state that was cut short by the economic reversals which began in 1873.
The boom resulting from the 1871 arrival of the railroad brought Brighton its first bank, first newspaper since 1843, and a two-fold increase in population. To take advantage of the railroad trade and transient population, the Western House was built in 1873 on Main Street next to the tracks and near the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad depot.
The building was erected by Asa Rounsifer, a local farmer who lost both the hotel and most of his farm land by 1875, probably due to the widespread bank failures and deflation of late 1873. The Rounsifer House, as it was first known, was purchased by Johannah and A.W. Smith who rechristened the building the Western House.
The rise in popularity of the automobile, which resulted in traffic focused on Grand River rather than Main Street and the decline in passenger railroad service led to the hotel’s decline after 1900. Up until the early 2000’s, after interior and exterior renovation, the Western House provided office space on the ground level and rooms for rent on the upper floors.
Historic monument: the Catalpa Tree
We believe this tree was planted here when the hotel opened in 1873. The tree is clearly visible in a 1892 postcard — and it was already as tall as the building then.
Considering the oldest known catalpa tree is at the State of Michigan Capitol, also planted in 1873 (tho it seems it was already an older tree when it was planted), the tree situated on our property here is likely one of the oldest of its kind in the world.