Old Mission History: Pearl Hill’s Grocery, Corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads

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I get a lot of questions about the building on the corner of Swaney Road and Brinkman Road. Was it a hotel? A store? What was it, and who ran it?

I get requests about the history of this building at least once or twice a week, so here’s a little backstory on it. Hopefully, some of the Andruses, Brinkmans, Ryckmans or other people in the know will chime in with more info in the comments section at the bottom of this story.

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The building on the corner was, indeed a grocery store, known as Pearl Hill’s Grocery (Pearl was a man). Along with groceries in the store, Pearl also delivered groceries around the neighborhood in his wood paneled station wagon.

Pearl Hill's Grocery in Old Mission Michigan
Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads | Jane Boursaw Photo

Below is a photo of Pearl Hill on the left, along with four other gentlemen (names unknown), on the porch of the store (date unknown, photo courtesy of the book “A Century of Service,” published by the Peninsula Telephone Co. in 2008).

Pearl looks like a happy guy, doesn’t he? I would venture to say that the man second from the right looks like a DeVol, but I’m just spitballing here. Notice that there’s a barn out behind the store which is no longer there. And, of course, the Beech-Nut Tobacco sign on the right.

Pearl Hill's Grocery in Old Mission Michigan
Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads; Pearl Hill is on the left; others unknown; date unknown

Here’s that same photo today. Notice that the architectural detail on the porch seems to have survived all these years, as it looks the same in the original photo.

Pearl Hill's Grocery in Old Mission Michigan
Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads | Jane Boursaw Photo
Pearl Hill's Grocery in Old Mission Michigan
Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads | Jane Boursaw Photo

The store also housed an ice cream parlor, and there was a dance hall upstairs. When I was a kid growing up in Old Mission in the 1960s, you could go inside the building, and upstairs, there was still a cool old gramophone there – maybe used for the dances(?).

Interestingly, Pearl’s wife was also named Pearl. Formerly Pearl O. Andrus, she died on Nov. 3, 1964. According to her obituary in the Nov. 4, 1965, Traverse City Record-Eagle, she was born on June 15, 1885, in East Bay Township. In 1902, she married Pearl H. Hill, and the couple lived on the Old Mission Peninsula and operated Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman Road and Swaney Road until 1938.

Pearl H. Hill was born in 1880 and died in 1937, a year before the store was closed. And I’m guessing that’s WHY it closed.

Surviving at the time of Pearl O.’s death were seven children: Mrs. Frank (Opal) Lyke of Chatanooga, TN; Mrs. R.S. (Dorothy) MacDonald of Florida; Mrs. Edith Jamieson; Mrs. Guy (Myrtle) Case; and Mrs. Howard (Irene) Terry, all of Traverse City; and Mrs. Alex (Joan) McNevin of Detroit; and Richard of Saginaw.

I remember Mr. and Mrs. Terry well. Mr. Terry painted the exterior of our family’s house in Old Mission every few years, and his granddaughter Teri Gray still lives in Old Mission with her husband Brendan Keenan (who was in my class in school).

Also surviving at the time of Pearl O. Hill’s death were 15 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, several nieces, nephews and cousins, and her brother, Buff Andrus of Detroit.

Preceding Mrs. Hill in death were her husband, Pearl H. Hill, three sons and three brothers. Both Pearls are buried in the family lot at Ogdensburg Cemetery, on the corner of Center Road and Ladd Road.

Pearl Hill Grave in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula
Pearl Hill Grave in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo

I believe the building once known as Pearl Hill’s Grocery is now owned by the Ryckman family estate.

Pearl Hill's Grocery in Old Mission Michigan
Pearl Hill’s Grocery on the corner of Brinkman and Swaney Roads | Jane Boursaw Photo

Other family buried in the Pearl Hill family plot in Ogdensburg Cemetery.

Pearl Hill Family Plot in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Pearl Hill Family Plot in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Pearl Hill Family Plot in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Pearl Hill Family Plot in Ogdensburg Cemetery on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I know as the old Grange Hall as my grandmother called it and Jean Warren also called it that and told stories of dances held there when she was younger.

  2. My Grandmother Mary Lou (Berry) Belanger (92 years old) says the same about it being a dance hall upstairs. Her mother was Ethel Tompkins.

  3. Thank you, Jane. I enjoy your writing about OMP–and learning about this old building I have passed by but knew nothing about

  4. We wonder what that neat old building once was whenever we drive by it. Now we know! Thank you Jane for more wonderful and appreciated historical information about the OMP. How fun that both of their first names were Pearl.

  5. There was also a short period of time that Dan Lisuk rented and lived there in the 70’s. Dan taught in Traverse City at that time and went on to teach art is Suttons Bay until he retired. There was a wood stove but little or no insulation. Dan said if the temperature was 25 out side it was 28 inside. An electric blanket provided some measure of warmth.

    • I remember when he lived there. I was just a kid but I remember going visiting there and remember he was an artist.

  6. The gentleman on the far right looks like it could be an Andrus..as in Ira? He was the father of Bud, Ivan,Edward Ted, Frances, Violet, Prella, Martha,Jean and Barb. He was also related to the Hills, I think he was Mrs Hills brother because I can remeber my mother referring to her as Aunt Pearl…..The Andrus family lived and worked the farm on the ridgewood at the end of Center Road

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