Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vanished Rochester: Hilltop Lanes

When the new Hilltop Lanes building opened for business in October 1950, the Rochester Clarion referred to it as a bowling “palace.” Compared to the less spacious Rochester Recreation bowling alley located in a Main Street basement (more about that one in a future post), the modern, new 12-lane center perched on the top of South Hill probably did seem palatial to local keglers.

Ray Ludwig was the general manager when Hilltop Lanes opened to the public at 893 S. Rochester Rd. on October 11, 1950. State-of-the-art Brunswick equipment was in place to greet the league bowlers in the brand-new building on the first day of business. Today, we wouldn't think of a 12-lane bowling alley as large, but as a kid, Hilltop seemed like a pretty big place to me. I recall accompanying my Dad on a few occasions for his Wednesday night league games there, when he was bowling for Jack Long Ford Sales. What seemed a bit incongruous to me (and still does), is that after a night of bowling (and in some cases, drinking), customers of Hilltop would head out to the parking lot only to be greeted by posted signs demanding QUIET because the Avon Center Hospital was located just over the fence and didn't want its patients' rest disturbed by noisy revelers.

The growing area was soon served by additional bowling centers, but Hilltop was the first in the community designed and built specifically for bowling. The bowling lanes closed in the late 1970s when House of Denmark bought the property for a retail store offering Danish modern furniture. The furniture store, later operated under the names Contemporary Furniture and The Desk, continued until about 2005, when the property was sold to Russell Shelton, owner of the adjacent Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership. The building was razed in 2008 to make more lot space available for the dealership.

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