Sunday, September 5, 2010

At Home in Rochester: The Clinton G. Griffey Residence

The stately home at 444 West University Drive (formerly Fifth St.) was built in 1906 by newspaper publisher and politician Clinton George Griffey.

Griffey was not a native of Rochester, nor did he spend most of his productive working life here. He was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania in 1841, the grandson of a Welshman who was one of the earliest settlers of Erie County. The Griffeys were prominent citizens of the township of Conneaut, and on modern maps of that area landmarks such as Griffey Road and Griffey Cemetery can still be identified.

At age nineteen, C.G. Griffey was publisher of the Girard Union newspaper when the Civil War broke out. In 1862, he served fifteen days under arms in defense of Pennsylvania as a member of the 15th infantry regiment of Pennsylvania militia. As Robert E. Lee's forces were entering Maryland in the fall of 1862, Pennsylvanians feared for their state, and the governor called up all able-bodied men to join the militia in defense of the capital at Harrisburg. Griffey enlisted on September 12, 1862, and was discharged from service on September 27, 1862, after Confederate forces were defeated at Antietam and had retreated across the Potomac.

Griffey sold the Girard Union in 1864 and was involved with several other small newspapers before settling in Negaunee, Michigan in 1873, where he founded and published the Negaunee Iron Herald. During his years in Negaunee he entered politics, serving at the local level as postmaster and supervisor. He also served in the Michigan House of Representatives in 1880, and in the Michigan Senate in 1890.

Griffey paid a visit to Rochester in 1903 and liked the town so much that he decided to sell his newspaper in Negaunee and relocate here. He built three houses in town before erecting his fine residence at 444 W. Fifth (now University Drive) in 1906. The Griffey residence is one of several buildings in Rochester said to have been constructed with brick reclaimed from the demolition of the Detroit Sugar Company factory on Woodward St., which was razed in the same year that the Griffey house was built.

C.G. Griffey lived in the house at 444 W. Fifth until his death in June 1937. He was buried at Mount Avon Cemetery in his adopted home of Rochester.

The front of the building looks somewhat different today than it did in Griffey's time. The porch and front dormer were removed in 1962 and replaced with a two-story columned portico. The decorative ironwork on the roof was also removed, but still exists today on the carriage house at the rear of the building. Law offices currently occupy the building.

The Clinton G. Griffey residence is 104 years old this year.

1 comment:

  1. Duckworthy said...

    This is all news to me! Thank you very much for posting this piece - one really DOES learn something new every day! I had to do a double-take at the photograph after reading the description of the house's current-day appearance: I never once thought that those columns and portico were add-on's, not part of the house's original design.

    Oh, and since mention of Fifth Street was made, I will again take this opportunity to ask, why can't we go back to having this stretch of road named "Fifthth Street"? Maybe I should take up a petition...