Saturday, April 27, 2013

At Home in Rochester: Benajmin C. Harrison House

The house at 420 East Street, known today as the home of the Rochester Folk Workshop, was built in 1870 as the family home of Benjamin C. Harrison and his wife, Almira Fancher Harrison. The Harrisons were married in 1865, and two years later bought two lots on East Street. Tax and census records indicate that the house was built on the southernmost of the two lots in 1870.  Benjamin Harrison was born in New Jersey and was a shoemaker by trade.

In 1873, the Harrisons sold the house and both lots to an Oakland Township farmer named Lemuel W. Shoup and his wife, Laura. Lemuel Shoup was the son of one of Oakland Township's pioneer settlers, Conrad F. Shoup, who had served as the township's treasurer and supervisor. Lemuel's nephew, Frank D. Shoup, was the proprietor of the Rochester Elevator from 1913 to 1922.

The Shoups' daughter, Lydia, married Marcus Eugene Carlton in 1881 and her parents sold the vacant lot to the north of their house to the young couple in 1884 so that they could built their own house. The Carltons hired prominent architect John Scott to design their home, which still stands today at 428 East Street.

Lemuel Shoup left the house at 420 East to another of his daughters, Lillian Shoup Horn, when he died in 1901. Lillian's daughter sold the property in 1919, and after brief ownership by a man named James Wortman, the house was purchased in 1922 by Fred Hart Main.  Fred Main, a carpenter, and his wife, Olive, made their family home there for more than four decades.  Their daughter, Helen V. Main Allen, who grew up in the house, later became the treasurer of Avon Township and served in that office from 1949 until her death in 1970.  The city of Rochester Hills named Helen V. Allen Memorial Park on School Road in her honor.

The property stayed in the Main family until 1970.  In the early 1970s, the current owners, Vincent and Karen Sadovsky, established the Rochester Folk Workshop in the building.

The Benjamin C. Harrison House celebrates its 143rd birthday this year.

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