Wednesday, February 4, 2009

This Month in Rochester History

In what may well be the coldest month of the year, we also observe the anniversary of one of the most devastating fires in Rochester history. The Detroit Hotel, which stood on the southwest corner of Third and Main streets, was completely destroyed by fire on February 22, 1927. Fortuitously, the village of Rochester had taken delivery of a brand new Type 12 American LaFrance pumper and 2,000 feet of new fire hose just one month before, spending more than $14,000 on the equipment. With assistance from the Pontiac Fire Department, Rochester's volunteer fire fighters were able to contain the flames and prevent the loss of nearby structures. The hotel, which was built in 1887 as the Sidney House and later renamed, was being used as a transient boarding house at the time, and had some small businesses operating in back, including a tire shop and a Willys-Knight/Overland dealership. Contents of the tire shop and auto dealership contributed to a deadly cocktail of toxic smoke and fumes which prevented firemen from entering the building, and thus the structure could not be saved. The accompanying photo is from the collection of the Rochester Hills Public Library, and shows the fire in progress. The B.A. Horvitz building at 301 S. Main, which now houses the Mind, Body & Spirits restaurant, can be seen at the right of the frame, and next to it, a billboard which stood in the adjacent vacant lot (more about the billboard another time).

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