A little bit of Battle Creek history faded away quickly this week, as the old brick farmhouse north of Arlene’s Truck Stop was torn down.

The place had a rather storied history since being built back in 1867 by one of Battle Creek’s earliest pioneers.   Edward Berger’s family acquired the land, about 5 miles southwest of Battle Creek, in the 1830s.  He farmed the land for most of his 81 years.   The property has been many things over the years, and now it will come full circle to farming----sort of.   The 153-year-old house has been knocked down to make way for another marijuana provisioning center.

The property has been home to a lot of different businesses in the years since it was the Berger family homestead.    Most recently, it was Keifer’s Music Instrument Repair and Sales.  Will Keifer bought it about 10 years ago and tried to make a go of it in the newer addition to the house, which jutted out to the north.   Keifer relocated into Battle Creek, to 935 West Territorial Road, and sold the old place about a year or so ago.  He said the woman who bought it told him at the time that they were planning to preserve the old house.

Old Keifer's Music-TSM Photo

Keifer says he learned a little about the place over the years.   “It was a hotel and apartments at one point, and there was a motel next to it that was also operated by the owners.  The upstairs rooms in the house still had room numbers on the doors.”

Tom Fugate remembers on the Facebook Page ‘You Know You’re From Battle Creek When’, “My parents always told me back in 1946 they spent their honeymoon there it was a hotel.”  Greg Moyle remembers, “I used to live where B&B Camper is during the 50s and 60s. It indeed was a motel and later apartments. I moved in 1970 and lost track of the occupants.”

In the 1980s, the property was owned by long time area realtor Vera McCray.   McCray, who had retired from a long career at Post Cereal, made it into the Century Club, which was open in the mid-1980s.   The club had an interesting old bar that Keifer says may have come from a downtown Battle Creek bar called the Cellar Club.   James Holds remembers on Facebook, “In 82, it submitted an application for a liquor license, and operated for a short time as the Century Club. By February of 1988, it was no longer a licensed establishment and was the scene of a large bust with over 100 people in attendance arrested. Fifteen people were jailed, 10 for operating a disorderly house, and five for frequenting a disorderly house. Sixty-three other adults were cited for frequenting a disorderly house and were released. 27 juveniles were picked up and released to their parents.”

The story goes that a local police officer was living in one of the upstairs apartments, and was running a Blind Pig downstairs at night, where there were allegedly some wild parties.

Naomi Curtis wrote on Facebook, “In the late ’80s, whoever owned it wanted to turn it into a bar, I believe. Instead, before opening to the public, it somehow got overrun by teenagers partying there every weekend. I was one of those teenagers, and after police shut it down, I spent an evening in the police department with about 50 other kids who had to wait for our parents to come and get us.”

The property also was the site of many large yard and garage sales over the years.   We’ve heard there was a rock shop in there, for people who collected and polished rocks.  It was the site of Granny’s Antiques in 1985.

Will Keifer says he looked out of his music shop one day and saw an older woman standing out front crying.  He went out to talk to her.  She had lived in the apartment house as a young girl.  She showed him where a dumbwaiter used to be inside that they would ride up and down.  And she showed him where the telephone had been located, with names and numbers carved into the wooden trim, including that of her older brother who had gone off to join the service.

At one point, the property was listed for more than $300,000.   Realtor dot com shows an old listing with a very old photo and says it last sold for $135,000.   Keifer says he paid a lot less for it than that, about 10 years ago.

Realtor dot com

Keifer says he was told that Vera McCray had a caretaker who was supposedly watching over the place, but instead, he stripped all the plumbing, wiring, and other scrap metal out of the place, possibly to buy drugs or booze.  He said the house had a nice basement and was solid, but needed to be gutted and have everything replaced inside.  Keifer did restore the front porch and made changes to the addition where he had his store.

4421 W Columbia2-Will Keifer photo

Several big maple trees in the yard have been marked for death too, to clear the way for progress.   All that’s left now are memories, and I’m sure we’ve just scratched the surface there.   Let us know if you have some memories of photos to share.

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