Located at the intersection of the Detroit–Chicago Road and the La Plaisance Bay Turnpike, the Walker Tavern was constructed as a farmhouse but evolved into an inn known as Snell's Tavern to service travelers journeying along the two roads. In the early nineteenth century, a stagecoach trip from Detroit to Chicago took five days. Other hostelries along the route included Ten Eyck's Tavern in Dearborn and the Clinton Inn in Clinton (moved to Greenfield Village in Dearborn [ WN135] and renamed Eagle Tavern). In 1843, five years after they came from Cooperstown, New York, to Lenawee County, innkeepers Sylvester and Lucy Walker purchased Snell's Tavern. Under their ownership, business prospered, and it became necessary to expand both the tavern and the barns.
The two-story, clapboarded, wood-frame, side-gabled tavern with a center Federal entrance probably once sheltered by a porch rests on a cut fieldstone foundation. The building has undergone several enlargements and modifications. The Walker Tavern soon earned the reputation as “the best west of Detroit.” The tavern was more than a stopping place for travelers, it was the social and civic center of the community. Its popularity convinced the Walkers to build a larger brick tavern directly across the road, in 1853.
In 1921, the Reverend Frederic Hewitt, an Episcopal minister, purchased both taverns and renovated them for use as a tourist attraction in the Irish Hills. The State of Michigan acquired the older tavern property in 1965 and restored it to its 1840s period less the porch. In 1978 it opened as a museum at the Cambridge State Historical Park. In 2011 a federal transportation enhancement grant will fund renovation of the Hewitt house as a visitor center for the tavern and the U.S. 12 Historic Heritage Route.