Saturday, October 19, 2013

At Home in Rochester: Pearl John O'Brien House

P.J. O'Brien house as it looked in 1907
 The house on the northeast corner of Fourth and East streets in downtown Rochester was built in late 1903 by Charles A. Burr, who also built the opera house block at the corner of Fourth and Main (where Lytle Pharmacy is today). The Rochester Era reported in late 1903 that Burr had purchased the Barley lot at Fourth and East and was having a foundation laid for a house. In March 1904, the newspaper  remarked that lumber dealer P. J. O'Brien had purchased the newly-built house from Burr, was making an addition to it, and would be occupying it as a family residence.

O'Brien was born in Oakland County in 1875, and was a prominent business and civic leader in Rochester. He established a lumber and coal yard on Water Street in Rochester in 1899 (the business later became known as the Nowels Lumber Yard). He was also a stockholder and second vice-president of the Rochester Savings Bank, and vice-president of the Rochester Development Company, which was formed in 1919 to bring new industry to the village. He served as secretary of the Rochester Fire Department, as village clerk and village treasurer, and as a member of the board of education.
P. J. O'Brien house as it looked in 2013

An interesting aside: O'Brien disliked his given name, Pearl, so later in life he went to court to have it legally changed to Peter. He was commonly known as P. J.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the former O'Brien residence was the home of the Heart of the Hills Resale Shop. Today it is the location of Marie's Salon and Spa.

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