The long, strange life of Ann Arbor's 326 W Liberty

Once upon a time 326 Liberty was a single family home when it was built 1870 on the edge of downtown Ann Arbor.

Today the former hilltop home is about to enter the latest act in its long life. The Ann Arbor City Council approved plans for a 1,283-square-foot expansion that promises to make it ready for its next century of existence.

The addition will connect a building behind the original Liberty home and add a residential unit to the existing structure. The finished structure will create a 6,914-square-foot, mixed-use building with 1,426 square feet of residential space, 740 square feet for a salon and 4,748 square feet of office space.

Historically the building is known as the Peter Brehm House, named after the owner of the old Western Brewery on Fourth Street near William Street. In architectural jargon it's a Second Empire-style house with a Mansard roof. To most people it's a beautiful old Victorian that just can't be cost-effectively built anymore.

Brehm lost the Western Brewery by 1872 and shot himself in the head a year later, the same time as the financial panic of 1873. His surviving family lived there until 1896 when another family that immigrated from Germany, the Arnolds, moved in.

The Arnold Family raised five children and lived there until the early 1930s when the couple died. It remained in the family's hands as a home for relatives attending the University of Michigan and a vacation home until the 1950s.

The International Order of Odd Fellows took it over in 1952, converting it to a meeting hall. The Moveable Feast restaurant bought it in 1978. At one point a second building used for a bakery was built behind the original house. Unfortunately, the Moveable Feast (true to its name) moved in 2005.

Today the house is partially occupied by Identity Salon & Spa. And so the saga continues.

Source: City of Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor District Library
Writer: Jon Zemke
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