Michigan State Parks: Cambridge Junction

Cambridge Junction Historic State Park is not your typical state park. In fact, it’s really more of a historical village.

Nestled in the shadows of Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, the park consists of two historic buildings, a reconstructed barn, and accompanying artifacts.

The most famous building on site is the Walker Tavern, a former stagecoach stop. The Walker Tavern sits on the corner of the Chicago Road and La Plaisance Bay Pike. Today we know them as US-12 and M-50.

Formerly a military route, it became a popular stagecoach route between Detroit and Chicago as thousands migrated to and through the area looking for cheap land.

Cambridge Junction history

Built in 1832 by Calvin Snell and then owned by Lucy and Sylvester Walker until 1855, the tavern served passengers traveling between the big cities. Travelers could get a meal and a bed, each for 25 cents.

The Tavern also was a popular gathering place for the locals. Mail was delivered and picked up here, church services were sometimes held, and plenty of town gossip was shared in the barroom (men only) and parlor (for the ladies and refined gentlemen).

In fact, the original wooden tavern became so popular and crowded that in 1853 a larger brick tavern was built across the street.  (This building still stands, but is owned and operated privately and is not part of the state park.)

It wasn’t long, however, before trains and then automobiles changed the mode of transportation and the tavern at Cambridge Junction was no longer needed. It was converted to a private home in 1865.

In 1922, the Hewitt family purchased the Walker Taverns. They used them as a tourist attraction featuring antiques and chicken dinners. Frederick Hewitt was a friend of Henry Ford and the two went antiquing together. Hewitt actually helped find many items now located in the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Hewitts built a new home on the property in 1929, which today serves as the Visitor’s Center and park headquarters. Inside you will find lots of pictures, history, and artifacts from the era.

Other historical connections

One of those artifacts is a guest book. A name I found of interest was former Michigan Governor Woodbridge Ferris, who also founded Ferris State University (formerly Ferris Institute) — my alma mater.

The only other building is the reconstructed barn, that represents where the wheelwright shop stood that took care of the stagecoaches. The Michigan Bicentennial Wagon featured in the 1976 Bicentennial wagon trip to Valley Forge is stored here.

Cambridge Junction today

During the summer, regular events take place at the park, including a farmer’s market, old-fashioned crafts, and vintage baseball games complete with 1800s uniforms and equipment. Check the park’s website for dates and times.

Also, before you go, check the calendar to be sure it’s not a major NASCAR weekend at MIS. The state park closes on race weekends (and state holidays.)

Since Cambridge Junction does not have a campground, we recommend staying at nearby Hayes State Park, located just five minutes down the road. And if you want to enjoy some trails, check out Michigan’s newest state park, Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve.

We have plenty more adventures to come, so subscribe to this blog and our YouTube channel. (We have a video about Cambridge Junction State Park here.) You can follow us on Instagram, our Facebook page, and Twitter. Plus, you can see our progress as we visit each park on this interactive Google Map. You also can keep track of our activities on social media with the hashtags #hikecampgo and #mistateparks100.

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