Saturday, November 17, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Thomas Jefferson Jones House

The house at 302 Walnut Street currently occupied by the Peppertree clothing boutique has stood at the corner of Third and Walnut for approximately 144 years. Tax and deed records indicate that the house was likely built in 1868 as the family residence of a carpenter named Thomas Jefferson Jones, who had purchased the lot from the heirs of the late John F. Hamlin. Jones was born in New York state in 1828, and came to Oakland County with his family when he was about seven years old. He married Phoebe Delight Collins in 1854 and the couple had three children, the youngest of whom, Anna, may have been born in the Walnut Street house in 1868. (Anna later became the wife of Commodore George Newberry).

The Jones family lived in the house until 1873, and then it was purchased by Henry Marshall Look. H. M. Look was a deacon of the Congregational church, and had served as probate judge of Oakland County under territorial government, as justice of the peace of Avon Township, and very briefly, as president of the Village of Rochester. He lived at 302 Walnut until just before his death in 1887, and his heirs sold then sold the house to John Mackey Axford, who owned it until 1903.  In the first half of the twentieth century, the house was the residence of Eva Banghart Gunn and her family, from about 1920 until 1954.  After the death of Eva Gunn, 302 Walnut Street made the transition from a private residence to an office building, as by that time there was already development pressure on Walnut Street to expand the downtown business district.

In the early 1960s, 302 Walnut was the home of the Rochester X-Ray Center, operated by Dr. Otis W. Schorling. A medical lab business also occupied part of the space.  In those days, Crittenton Hospital had not been built yet;  Rochester was being served only by a tiny osteopathic clinic on South Hill, so before the Rochester X-Ray Center opened, most citizens had to travel to Pontiac for diagnostic testing.

The X-Ray Center closed in early 1964, and the house eventually became a retail location. Since 1984, the Thomas Jefferson Jones house has been the home of the Peppertree women's clothing boutique.

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