Hooper Hathaway: A Piece of Ann Arbor History

Hooper Hathaway, a successor to one of the oldest law firms in Ann Arbor, has proudly served the community for over forty years. Initially established by Frank Stivers in 1895, the firm has grown and evolved, undergoing a series of name changes before becoming formally known as Hooper Hathaway, P.C. Purchased in 1981 by several of the shareholders of the firm, the Hooper Hathaway building, a three-story building located at 126 South Main Street, has been a focal point of Main Street for almost 200 years.

Early History of 126 S. Main Street

The site is part of the original Village of Ann Arbor as laid out in 1824 on a portion of land owned by Elisha Rumsey and his wife Ann Rumsey. The original description reads Lot 7 of Block 1 South, Range 3 East, Village of Ann Arbor. The property, at the intersection of Washington and Main Streets, is 22 feet wide by 124 feet deep.

In 1862, the site was occupied by a two-story frame building. The businesses included C.B. Thompson on the corner, C.L. Pack Boot and Shoe Store and, on the second floor, a “Leather Store” for purchase of hides and skins “for cash”. This older building was torn down after the Civil War and replaced in 1866 by the new Bach Building, which includes the front of the present building.

The original occupants were the Philip Bach dry goods store on the main floor and a business college on the third floor, The present building also includes what was then a barber shop on Washington Street, now the section of the building which includes the mezzanine.

Muehlig's Dry Goods to the Present Day

Longtime residents of Ann Arbor may remember this building as Muehlig’s Dry Goods. Its ownership came into the hands of the Muehlig family in a series of steps. In 1867, Philip Bach and Peter H. Abel formed a partnership; later the dry goods firm operated under the name of Bach and Roath. Around 1900, Bruno St James left the firm of Goodyear and St. James and purchased the dry goods business. He hired Bertha E. Muehlig as bookkeeper.

Bertha Muehlig took over the management of the business in 1911, and in 1924 she acquired title to the building. The Muehlig family was also involved in the operation of a hardware store on South Main Street which survived until the 1950’s, a funeral home which is currently one of the largest in Ann Arbor, and a number of other businesses and commercial enterprises.

After the removal of the Muehligs' business operation to the 200 block of South Main Street by its then proprietor, Tom DeFord, the building was acquired and converted to law offices by Hooper, Hathaway, Price, Beuche & Wallace. The firm moved into the restored building on July 11, 1981.

Hooper Hathaway continues to occupy this historic building.