Thursday, February 4, 2010

Main Street Stories: Lyman L. Ball Building

The building at 308 S. Main, currently the home of Holland Floral & Gifts, was built during the summer of 1900 by a photographer and sketch artist named Lyman L. Ball. L.L. Ball was born in Milan, Michigan in 1879, the son of Moses and Evaline Wilbur Ball. He brought his photography business to Rochester just before the turn of the twentieth century and operated a studio on East Fourth Street. In 1900, he purchased part of lot 13 on Main Street from Frank Bitters and announced his intention to build. The Rochester Era reported the news thus on May 18th of that year:
L.L. Ball, the artist, is preparing to build a brick block adjoining the Bitters house on the south. It will be 20x60 ft., with his gallery on the second floor. Mr. Ball has a fine trade in his profession and his new gallery will give him much more room and opportunity to extend his business.
By mid-summer, things were taking shape. The Era reported on July 20th that the new building was "going up rapidly and the brick work will be finished in a few days." Two months later, the newspaper told the town that:
The plate glass of L.L. Ball's new brick block has been placed in position. Mr. Ball expects to remove his gallery to the new quarters soon.
The building opened with W.J. Kingsbury's Palace Bakery on the first floor and Ball's photography studio on the second floor. While Ball was establishing his business in Rochester, another man, Lafayette Mead, was doing the same, up the street. Lafe Mead was born in 1868 in Livingston County, Michigan, the son of Dyer W. and Sarah Smith Mead, and grew up in the Brighton area. He married in 1893 and relocated to Wayne County, Ohio, where he worked in a laundry in the village of Orrville. He came to Rochester just after the turn of the twentieth century and opened a laundry business here, with his quarters at first located near what later became the Hills Theatre.

After the bakery departed from Lyman Ball's new building and a short-lived confectionery store followed, Lafayette Mead's Rochester Steam Laundry moved into the first floor. Lyman Ball sold the building to Mead on June 11, 1904, and then moved his photography business to the Northville/Plymouth area, where he spent the rest of his working life and eventually died in 1947. Lafe Mead turned Ball's former studio on the second floor of the building into his personal apartments.

Mead operated the laundry at 308 S. Main until April 1942, when he retired at the age of 72 and sold the business to Detroit investors. In 1948, William L. Holland moved his floral business into the building, and Holland Floral and Gifts has been a landmark business on Main Street for the past sixty-two years. The building's front elevation has been lovingly maintained in its original style, and appears much as it did when Lyman Ball built it 110 years ago this summer.

This ca.1907 photograph of the Lyman Ball building shows it occupied by Lafe Mead's Rochester Steam Laundry.

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