Friday, January 1, 2010

This Month in Rochester History

Do you refer to University Drive in Rochester as Fifth Street? If so, you are saying something about yourself! It was fifty-one years ago today, on January 1, 1959, that Fifth Street officially became known as University Drive. The village fathers changed the name of the street because they wanted to acknowledge the presence of the newly-founded Michigan State University-Oakland (later to become Oakland University), located a few miles west of town on the former Meadow Brook Stock Farm of Alfred and Matilda Dodge Wilson.

Rochester was eager in those days to become a "college town" of sorts. Although the MSUO campus lay partially in Avon Township and partially in Pontiac Township (now Auburn Hills), area leaders were successful in encouraging the school to adopt a Rochester mailing address and a Rochester identity. Renaming Fifth Street was part of their effort to ensure that Rochester would be considered the "home" of Oakland University.

This view of Fifth Street, from the collection of the Rochester Hills Public Library, was taken in the mid-1920s, when the boulevard still existed. The camera is looking west.


  1. Wasn't it also a stipulation from Matilda Dodge Wilson that MSUO have a Rochester mailing address? And OU still does, even though Avon Township has become the City of Rochester Hills.

  2. And, wouldn't it be nice if, 51 years after the name change, we could once again call it "5th Street"? It would be far more practical, logical, and, well, authentic! It's always difficult to explain directions to out-of-towners ("Well, you head east on University, which becomes Walton, but changes back to, I haven't a clue why they did that..." (Posted by jamohr2 - couldn't figure out how to identify myself otherwise)

    1. Walton never "changes back to University" going west. It remains Walton all the way through Pontiac.

  3. When does Walton change BACK to University? It doesn't. It goes all the way to Waterford as "Walton Blvd". To make it even more confusing, there is an exit on I-75 that is "University Drive, Rochester". If you take THAT University Drive, it dead ends at Oakland University in Auburn Hills! So businesses with a "University Drive" address in Rochester are miles away! Crittenton Hospital uses "University Drive" as it's address, and it's in Rochester Hills, not Rochester. University becomes Walton at the city border, so figure that one out. I vote for it to be changed back to "Fifth Street".