Saturday, May 16, 2009

Main Street Stories: 405-407 S. Main

The merchant block at 405-407 S. Main has been standing since Chester A. Arthur was President of the United States. Jeweler Louis E. Palmer broke ground for the building in the spring of 1883, not long after he moved to Rochester from his childhood home in Lenawee County and established his business here. After reporting a few weeks earlier that the brick for Palmer's new building was being laid up quickly, the Rochester Era commented on June 28, 1883 that “Palmer's cornice is being put up on his new brick block, and it 'beats 'em all'.” Vintage photos of the building, such as the one displayed here, show us the ornate, medallion-crowned cornice that was long ago stripped from the facade.

In 1896, Louis Palmer decided to build a new building up the block at 415-417 S. Main, and moved the jewelry store to that location. After Palmer moved out, 405-407 S. Main hosted a wide variety of tenants. The 405 address was home to Hiram H. Stalker's shoe store, then in the 1920s, Zimmerman's Shoes occupied the space. McNally & Clark's Men's Wear followed the shoe stores, and in the 1950s and early 1960s, Gebert's Hardware was located at 405. Since 1969 the address has been the home of Molnar's Tuxedo.

The Wilcox & LeBlond Pool Hall occupied 407 S. Main during the 1920s, and in 1950 it was Harold's Tavern. In the mid-1950s, Pontiac Federal Savings & Loan moved into the building, and remained there, under various successive names, until it failed in 1991 and was bought out by TCF Bank in 1993. 407 was most recently home to Michael Foran Interiors and is currently listed for sale.

The building at 405-407 S. Main celebrates its 126th birthday this spring.

Photo: A view of 405-407 S. Main as it looked about 1910


  1. Louis Eugene Palmer came to Rochester in 1874. He started he first jewelry store in 1883. In addition to the services you might expect in a jewelry store, he also fitted eye glasses. The sign on his window (at 415 Main) read "L.E. Palmer Jeweler and Optomitrist."

    He was also the proprieter of the Palmer Palace Rink, which was located just north of the 405-407 S. Main Street building.

    He was my great grandfather. Ray Henry

  2. J. Powrie Jewelers has recently opened in this location. Mr. Powrie has installed a small exhibit honoring Louis Eugene Palmer, who first opened his jewelry business in this location in 1883. Included are original photographs of the Palmer family, L.E. Palmer's top hat, his store ledger (dating from 1883), and a Palmer family pocket watch.

    Ray Henry