Monday, January 4, 2010

Subdivision Stories: New School

In 1916, the brand-new Rochester High School building at the corner of Fifth (University Drive) & Wilcox streets was opened to students. It was the town's first school building specifically designed to house the high school students, and it was dedicated with great fanfare.

During the same time period that the new school was being planned and built, real estate developers were platting the property lying to the west of the school between Fifth Street and the southern village limits. Principal among them was the partnership of Kapp and Ritchey, whose Auburn Gardens Land Company had developed the Alhambra Gardens and Curry Hills subdivisions on the west side of the village of Rochester in 1913. Kapp and Ritchey's new subdivision, laid out and sold in 1916 and including the streets known as Helen, Taylor, Castell, Roselawn and Fairview, was named “New School” because it offered housing opportunities within easy walking distance of the new school.

The developers were Ruth Adelaide Kapp and Paul Harden Ritchey and his wife, Addie V. Ritchey. P.H. Ritchey had offices in Pontiac and Windsor and traveled extensively in his quest to locate investment properties. Ruth A. Kapp was a real estate investor based in Ann Arbor and Pontiac. Her father, John Kapp, was a physician who served at one time as mayor of Ann Arbor. Another physician, Dr. Daniel G. Castell, a prominent citizen of Pontiac, was apparently a close friend of Ruth A. Kapp; she honored him by naming a street for him in the Alhambra Gardens subdivision when it was created in 1913. The street was continued through the Curry Hills and Oakdale subdivisions, and eventually, through the New School subdivision. At the time, Ruth Kapp was living in Pontiac on Roselawn Street, and she apparently named another street in New School in honor of her Pontiac address.

The features of the New School subdivision were proudly enumerated in advertisements of the day. Lots could be had for as little as $75. A large display ad running in the Rochester Era during July of 1916 described the amenities:
The New School Subdivsion lots are large, high, dry and have nicely graded streets. During recent years it has been discovered that the English Walnut tree will thrive and bear well in Michigan. These are the thin-shelled nuts you buy from your grocer for 20c to 25c per pound. We are going to plant an English Walnut tree on the front part of every lot in the New School subdivision early next spring. We will also plant one nice Maple tree in front of every lot.
The location of the property is ideal. The main trunk line running out of the city towards the west, Fifth St., passes on the north side of the property. It is also intersected by Third and First Streets. The big schools are nearby.
There are no railroads or car tracks to cross in going to these schools, and the mothers never need to worry about the little ones going or coming. All churches are within easy walking distance of this property, and it is only a few minutes' walk into the heart of the business district.
Kapp & Ritchey must have made their case very effectively with prospective buyers, for every lot in the New School subdivision was sold during the two sale weekends. The developers, finding themselves in the desirable situation of having more buyers than available lots to sell, immediately opened another subdivision the following month.

This advertisement from the Rochester Era lists the terms of purchase for lots in the New School subdivision.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! We live in one of these houses with the thriving walnut trees! Oh, the clunking of falling walnuts in the fall! :)