SHARE
The bar at the Hillsdale Brewing Company. Calli Townsend | Col­legian

From local brewery to Sat­urday morning lunch des­ti­nation, the Hillsdale Brewing Company does it all. Its current, eclectic range of service is nothing com­pared to the wild history of this big brick building on the corner of Hillsdale St. and E. Car­leton road. Owner of the Hillsdale Brewing Company Felicia Finch, intrigued by the building’s history, decided to do some research. She shared her findings online with the Hillsdale Brewing Co. Facebook page.

The building first opened in the 1880s and served as a hotel, brothel, and saloon, but the city even­tually shut it down in 1916. 

“The train station used to be down the road a little ways so the ladies in the brothel would stand in the upper windows,” Jessia Ruder, Hillsdale Brewing Co. waitress said. 

It’s esti­mated that the Wholesale Grocery Company took up res­i­dence in the building in the 1930s and built a big three-story ware­house in the back of the store. It didn’t stick around long, however. By 1940 the Scoville family bought the building with plans to turn the ware­house into a feedmill. 

During World War II, the Office of Price Admin­is­tration rented out the original part of the building that operated as a hotel. 

While in pos­session of the building, the Scov­illes con­structed a chicken hatchery and a feed processor in the third story of the ware­house. Oper­a­tions con­tinued until Richard Scoville died in 1963 and his family sold the building. 

Soon after, Wilson Auto Parts moved in and used the building as both a ware­house for parts and a store front. Wilson Auto Parts operated here until the late 1980s. When it closed its doors, what is now the Hillsdale Brewing Company became a storage facility. 

Art­Works of Hillsdale Inc., a non-profit art orga­ni­zation, filled this empty building next in the early 90s. Its goal was to provide a place for local artists and musi­cians to showcase their talents. Art­Works, however, never quite managed to bring the dream of a gallery to fruition, as retired pres­ident Don Heck­en­lively said.

“They looked at that building but the expense of the building made Art­Works go belly up,” Heck­en­lively said. “I was not directly involved at the time, but I helped res­urrect Art­Works about 15 years ago.” 

After Art­works left the building, it was used as storage once again, but this time the Gelzer family of the Gelzer fur­niture, hardware, and sporting goods stores who filled the space. 

“I think he bought it in the 1990s and used it as a fur­niture store,” Andrew Gelzer said referring to his father. “We used the large space in the back as our fur­niture ware­house, and that was it.”

In 2015, Grant Baker of the Gelzer Hardware Store heard that Roy and Felicia Finch were looking for a place to open up a restaurant and brewery in Hillsdale. He reached out to them, and Felicia Finch said they fell in love with the building and its long, unique history. They soon pur­chased the property on 25 Hillsdale St. and began ren­o­va­tions, finally opening in January of 2018. 

The Finches main­tained the build­ing’s original structure and archi­tecture. Its indus­trial-style exposed beams and pipes tie the building’s history with a modern feel. Ruder said the building was also a bank at one point, and the safe that was used by bankers is still there today.

“The safe from the bank is actually still intact,” Ruder said. “We’ve turned it into storage but you can see they had cup­boards  where they would’ve kept coins or the safety deposit boxes in.” 

The main floor is broken up into several seg­ments and is used as the bar and dining room, and the kitchen is located in part of the ware­house closest to the dining area. None of the upstairs is cur­rently being used, however, Ruder said there are plans of turning it into an event space. 

In some ways the building has come full circle, returning to a wel­coming place for friends and family to gather for good food and fun. This time, however, it enter­tains in a more family-friendly fashion with trivia nights and live bands. There’s even a kids section on the first floor of the building with bins of toys.