Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avon Park Pavilion

During the Great Depression, the Rochester area benefited from a number of projects funded under agencies created by the National Recovery Act. One of these was a WPA project approved in September 1940 to built a pavilion at Avon Park (now Rochester Municipal Park, off Ludlow St.). The park itself had been created a few years earlier with workers provided by another recovery agency, the Public Works Administration (PWA). Now, federal funds would make possible a building that could be used for events and recreational activities.

The project called for a log building of 30 x 100 feet, with a field stone fireplace. According to an account in the Rochester Clarion, the field stone was offered free by Homer R. Hodges of Brewster Road, and was gathered from his 292-acre farm in section 5 of Avon Township. The estimated cost of construction of the pavilion was $12,000. The Clarion reported that construction had begun in May 1941, but now said that the pavilion would be a more manageable 30 x 60 feet. It was scheduled to be finished and open for use in June of 1941.

After the war ended, an improvement was made to the Avon Park Pavilion. In September 1947, a heating unit was installed so that the building could be made available for use year-round, weather conditions notwithstanding. In 1951, the Rochester Women's Club, in partnership with the Girl Scouts, raised $856 to equip a kitchen in the pavilion. Very little else was done to the building for decades – it remained a rustic shelter with basic amenities until the mid-1970s. The floor was poured concrete, and the seating consisted of picnic tables with plank benches.

The Avon Park Pavilion was transformed after it became the home of the Rochester Community House, which was founded in 1975. The Community House has made many additions and capital improvements to the building in the past 35 years, and as a result, the full-service facility we know today is much larger and looks vastly different than it did in 1941. The building's rustic beginnings are still visible, however, if one knows where to look. The most prominent is the field stone fireplace at the north end of the structure, built from the rock harvested from Homer Hodges' farm. The fireplace is the focal point of the Community House's Lewis Room, which comprises most of the original pavilion structure.

The Avon Park Pavilion/Rochester Community House building celebrates its 69th birthday this spring.

This postcard photo from the collection of the Rochester Hills Public Library, shows how the Avon Park Pavilion looked at the time that it was built in 1941.

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