Saturday, March 31, 2012

Main Street Paving By The Numbers

1916 Main Street paving, looking south from Fourth (Courtesy of Tom Case)
This coming week, the long-awaited makeover of Main Street in downtown Rochester will commence. The eight month project will include 12 weeks of complete road closure and is expected to cost around $5.6 million. When the excavation work begins in earnest in a few weeks, the layers of pavement will be peeled back to uncover a time capsule, of sorts, of Main Street history.  As the contractors dig, they will reveal Main Street's first pavement, a brick roadway that was laid in 1916.  Here's what the contractor's advertisement in the Rochester Era issue of  October 6, 1916 had to say:
The Williston Construction Company
of Chicago, Illinois
C.A. Williston in charge, have just completed the paving of Main street, Rochester, Michigan.
The brick, Hocking Valley Shale, was laid on a cement filler, with sand cushion and cement filler.
In the job 600,000 brick were used by the Williston Construction Co., and the D.U.R., with 4,500 barrels of cement. Cost of work $40,000 (village $27,000; D.U.R. $18,000)
From Third to Fifth streets the width of paving is 68 feet, from Second to Third and Fifth to R.R. crossing, 63 feet.
A storm sewer was put in the whole length of the job under the D.U.R. tracks. The D.U.R. co-operated with the Williston Construction Co., paving between their two tracks. During the construction of the work a steam shovel and 15-ton cement mixer were well used.
The Williston Construction Co. have been operating for three years in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan and are now engaged on a similar job at Howell, Michigan.
They consider their Rochester job a success in every particular, and think Rochester is to be congratulated.
Paving bricks stacked in front of Masonic Block, Fourth & Main (Courtesy of Tom Case)
An item in the July 26, 1916 issue of the journal Engineering & Contracting noted that Williston's bid for the job came in at $1.92 per square yard. When the brick roadway is uncovered this summer, we'll see how those 600,000 bricks have held up.

Thanks to Tom Case for sharing photos of the 1916 "Main Street Makeover" from his personal collection.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mount Avon Receiving Vault

Recently, the City of Rochester announced that some restoration work will be done in historic Mount Avon Cemetery this spring and summer. Part of this project will involve the cemetery's receiving vault, a small building located just to the south of the Wilcox gate, which was originally used to store caskets until burial could be made.

In the days before modern excavating equipment was available to cemetery sextons, burial in the winter months when the ground was frozen was not feasible.  In the Rochester area, it was common during the nineteenth century for bodies to be stored in the mausolea or vaults of one of the Pontiac cemeteries until spring, when burial at Mount Avon could take place.  In the spring of 1909,  Rochester hardware merchant Harvey J. Taylor filed a petition with the Avon Township board, praying that a ballot question be placed before the voters to approve a three-year tax to fund the construction of a receiving vault at Mount Avon Cemetery. The proposed vault would be capable of storing at least ten caskets. Co-signers of Taylor's petition included J. F. Jackson, John T. Norton, George Newberry, P. J. O'Brien, J. N. McCornac, Erastus S. Letts, William Clark Chapman, and Charles Sherwin Chapman.  The board granted the prayer of the petition, and the Rochester Era issue of March 19, 1909, carried this entreaty:
On the Proposition to Raise $3,000 to Build a Receiving Vault in Rochester Cemetery
A proposition will be voted upon at the coming township election appropriating $3,000 payable in three yearly installments of $1,000 each, for the building of a receiving vault in Rochester cemetery. This is a step which is most laudable and should carry by a large majority.  The need and necessity for a receiving vault in Rochester cemetery has long been apparent. It is proposed to build a stone or cement vault holding at least ten bodies. Vote "Yes" on the proposition by all means.
The proposition was carried by a vote of 225 to 116, and the receiving vault was built.  As it turned out, however, it was in use for its intending purpose for only about 15 years.  In 1925, when the Flowers Mausoleum Company built a community mausoleum in the cemetery, the township reserved for itself ten of the crypts within the new building for the purpose of storing remains over the winter months, thus rendering the receiving vault obsolete. Over the years, two additions were made to the receiving vault and it was used as an equipment shed.  The City of Rochester now plans to remove the non-sympathetic additions and restore the receiving vault to its original appearance.  Click here to read a recent Rochester Post story about the planned restoration work in the cemetery.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Subdivision Stories: Avondale Park

The city of Rochester includes a tiny subdivision north of Romeo Street and east of North Main that was called Avondale Park when it was platted in 1915. Laid out on a ten-acre parcel on the northern boundary of the Woodward Addition, Avondale Park further subdivided blocks 4,5,6 and 7 of the larger plat.  It was created and offered for sale by Pontiac real estate developers J. B. Mahaffy and Israel E. Terry, whose names are reflected in the subdivision's streets. Most lots in Avondale Park could be had for under $200, as shown in this 1915 advertisement.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

At Home in Rochester: Charles Ward and Neva Burr Crissman Residence

This Tudor-revival residence at 607 West University Drive was built in 1926 as the residence of Charles Ward Crissman and his wife, Neva Mae Burr Crissman.  Husband and wife were both members of prominent merchant families in Rochester.  Ward Crissman was born in 1890, the son of Harvey B. and Carrie May Albertson Crissman. He grew up on a farm north of Rochester and was graduated from Rochester High School with the class of 1908. After an early career as a schoolteacher and principal in Waterford, Crissman married Neva Mae Burr, the daughter of Rochester hardware merchant George Burr, and then entered into the hardware business with his father-in-law. Ward and Neva Crissman eventually took over the hardware business from her father, but Ward Crissman died very unexpectedly in 1935 from complications following an appendectomy.  His widow and son-in-law continued to operate Burr's Hardware until 1965, when they closed the business after 64 years on Main Street; Green's Artist Supply moved into the building a few weeks later. Neva Crissman died in 1978.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bygone Business: Hobart Funeral Home

The Hobart Funeral Home was established in Rochester by Alanson C. Hobart in January 1924, when Hobart bought out the undertaking business of Dr. Vernor M. Spaulding. Spaulding had been the successor of the E. R. Metcalf undertaking business, which was located in the building at 311 S. Main. Metcalf had been preceded by Thomas C. Severance, P. M. Woodworth, and W. Harvey Greene in the same business. In 1929, Hobart moved his funeral home into the former George M. Flumerfelt residence at 339 Walnut Street, where it remained for the next 21 years. Winkel & Potere bought out Hobart in 1950, and soon thereafter William R. Potere became the sole proprietor. John and Mary Modetz, the current owners of this business, purchased the funeral home from Potere in 1986.

This 1934 advertisement for the Hobart Funeral Home is from the collection of Rod and Susan Wilson.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

This Month in Rochester History

Fifty years ago this month, Abiding Presence Lutheran Church broke ground for a new facility in Avon Township.  The congregation had been organized in 1958 and spent its first few years holding services at North Hill Elementary School.  By 1962, the parish had grown to more than 360 members and was ready to construct a new building on the north side of  Walton, approximately a half mile west of Livernois. Ralls, Hamill & Becker were the architects for the new church, and Rewold & Son of Rochester was the general contractor for the project.  The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Abiding Presence Lutheran Church was held on March 22, 1962, with Pastor Lloyd Buss officiating.  The new church building was dedicated in October 1962.