Monday, February 1, 2010

This Month in Rochester History

This month, we observe the forty-third anniversary of the birth of the City of Rochester. At one minute past midnight on February 13, 1967, the village government of Rochester passed into history and the city government was born. Three weeks earlier, on January 24, 1967, Rochester citizens had voted to incorporate as a city by a margin of 689 to 166, thus ending 98 years of village governance.

The new city council composed of Roy Rewold, John Boeberitz, Thomas Case, Sam Howlett, James Hill, Burdette Lewis and Harold Milton convened on the evening of February 13 to go about the pressing business of setting up the new city government. One of their first tasks was the surgical separation of Avon Township assets from those of the new City of Rochester; specifically, the two municipalities needed to sort out the operation of Avon Park, Mt. Avon Cemetery, and Avon Township Public Library. Ownership and administration of the cemetery and Avon Park (now Rochester Municipal Park) were left with the City of Rochester, while the library remained a township asset, with the city of Rochester contracting for service. The Avon Township Hall, which housed township government offices, was still located at Fourth and Pine streets in Rochester in those days, so the township was in the unusual position of having its governmental offices physically located within another municipality. Similarly, to this day, the Rochester Hills Public Library (formerly Avon Township Public Library) is physically located in the City of Rochester.

Following the change from village to city, Rochester Clarion general manager Jim Sponseller opined in his weekly column that it might have been better to make the change on February 14 rather than February 13. Thirteen was considered an unlucky number by the superstitious, while February 14, Valentine's Day, was a celebration of love and marriage. Sponseller predicted that a "marriage" of Rochester and Avon Township would happen one day, and making the city's anniversary date coincide with Valentine's Day might have been a good omen, of sorts.

The "marriage" idea was floated a couple of times in the decades that followed, but consolidation didn't gain any ground with voters, and Rochester and Rochester Hills have since settled into (mostly) peaceful co-existence.

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