Friday, October 15, 2010

At Home in Rochester: Congregational Parsonage

The beautiful Gothic revival residence on the northwest corner of Pine and Third streets was built in the summer of 1878 by the First Congregational Church of Rochester, for use as its parsonage. Church officials had been working to acquire a parsonage site for several years, but were unable to raise the necessary funds to secure property. They finally made progress when Lysander Woodward volunteered to buy and hold the desired lots while the congregation raised the balance of funds needed.

Finally, on April 17, 1878, ground was broken on the long-awaited parsonage. Lysander Woodward's son-in-law, noted architect John Scott of Detroit, designed the home, and Miles King of Rochester was the builder. The contracted amount for the construction was $1,100.00, plus $54.00 for a cistern and fence.

The Rochester Era described the new residence this way:
This parsonage is without exception the finest and most complete model of architectural beauty and elegance to be found in the township of Avon, and reflects abundant credit upon not only its architect, Mr. John Scott of Detroit, a son-in-law of Lysander Woodward, but also upon its builder, Mr. Miles King of this village, who of course was assisted by several first class workmen among whom were Mr. Hammond and Mr. Fenner, resident mechanics. The style of architecture is properly Gothic, although there may be perhaps some deviations from the strict letter of the original in a few of the details. The exterior of the structure is finely ornamental, and in a manner that exhibits much architectural taste and refinement, everything being in strict keeping with the rules governing the style. Some of the designs in the ornamentation are really unique and so skillfully executed as to excite our admiration. The bay-window, for instance, which beautifies the east front of the main structure is a model of its kind, being very elaborately finished and trimmed - not in an 'overdone' manner - but with exquisite taste and neatness, the workmanship harmonizing, as before intimated, with every tracery of the designs.
The new parsonage welcomed the pastor, the Rev. Mr. Brown, in January of 1879, and was used by the church until 1917, when the congregation decided that the house was too large for its purpose and voted to build a new parsonage immediately behind the church. The 1878 parsonage was authorized to be sold into private hands and has remained a private residence ever since.

Today, the 132-year-old house has been lovingly restored, and the Gothic Revival elements so that the Era editor found so endearing may still be admired. It is significant in our local history not only for its relationship to the oldest Congregational church in Michigan, but also because it is the work of John Scott, the architect of the 1902 Wayne County Building and the 84 East Ferry house, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next time you pass the corner of Third and Pine, take a moment to admire this local historical treasure.

This postcard photo shows the Congregational church parsonage as it appeared about 1915.

1 comment:

  1. My grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. William F. Palmer, lived in this house in the 1920s. At that time it was a two-family house. Around 1930 they moved "to the top of the hill" on W. Third Street.
    --Ray Henry