Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vanished Rochester: Danish Old People's Home

The stately old home that stood atop the bluff at the corner of Walton and Brewster roads was known as the Danish Old People's Home from 1949 to 1973. The property on which the house stood was owned for the last half of the 19th century by Oliver Hazard Perry Griggs and his wife Lovina Kelly Griggs, who migrated to Avon Township from Wyoming County, New York in 1865. Griggs farmed the land and reared his children there, but moved to the village of Rochester in his later years. The farm then passed into the hands of his son, Charles K. Griggs, owner and operator of the Rochester Elevator. C.K. Griggs continued to operate the farm but did not reside there - he had a handsome home in the village of Rochester as well.

In January 1915, C.K. Griggs sold the farm at Walton and Brewster, consisting at that time of 210 acres, to Pontiac farmer Arthur M. Butler for the sum of $21,000. Butler lived on the farm until the death of his wife, then sold it in October 1939 to Herbert M. Bray, an executive with the Ajax Steel & Forge Company of Detroit. Herbert Bray died in 1945 and in May 1948, his widow, Violet, sold the estate which the Brays had called "Diane Acres" to the Detroit Lodge of the Danish Brotherhood in America for use as a retirement home for Danish Americans. Extensive additions and renovations were planned to the house to make it suitable for its new purpose.

In February 1949 the Danish Brotherhood celebrated the dedication of the Danish Old People's Home in Avon Township. In 1962, a memorial garden and fountain were added to the property in honor of all Danish immigrants to America who had located in the Detroit area. The fountain was the work of renowned sculptor Marshall Fredericks, featured a bronze swan in flight, and was entitled "Nordic Swan and Ugly Duckling." Count Knuth-Winterfeldt, at the time the Royal Danish Ambassador to the United States, visited the Danish Old People's Home to formally dedicate the garden and fountain.

In early 1973, the Danish Brotherhood announced the closing of the Danish Old People's Home because the society did not have the funds to complete an expensive array of necessary repairs and upgrades to the property. The 20 residents at the home were moved to other facilities and the home closed on April 30 of that year. Soon thereafter, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan began plans for a modern senior living community at the location, and the old house was razed when construction of the new facility began.

Danish Village was opened to residents in 1980. The memorial garden and fountain with the Marshall Fredericks sculpture were retained and are still a prominent feature of the property today.

This postcard view of the Danish Old People's Home is from the collection of Rod and Susan Wilson.


  1. Holy smokes! I completely forgot about this place until now! I haven't been to "Remembering Rochester" in several months, and am now playing a lengthy game of "catch-up"!

    Thanks for posting an article about this wonderful old place! Or maybe I shouldn't thank you, now that it's gotten me all re-depressed because here's yet another Rochester-area jewel has fallen prey to the wrecking ball!


    P.S. - I wonder if C.K. Griggs' "handsome home in the village of Rochester", mentioned in this article, is still standing! (I think we probably know the answer to this question...)

  2. My grandmother lived at Danish Village for several years. She was born in Copenhagen and immigrated here in 1929.

  3. Where exactly did the house stand? There is a lot of empty space at the northwest corner of Walton and Brewster. Was it near the road or was it back further?

    1. Near the road. Your eyes were just drawn to that beautiful landmark. I was home 2 months ago and felt a huge sense of anticipation as we were coming up to the corner---even though I knew that it was loooooong goooonneeee.


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